By Richard Thomas
Japanese whisky is all the rage lately, so much so that even in sleepy Portugal I get to enjoy hearing people who rave about the magnificence of the stuff without ever having tasted so much as a drop of it. Believe me when I say this: when something is trendy in my neck of the woods, it is trendy everywhere.
Yet with all that buzz, surprisingly little attention has been given to another buzzworthy item within the Japanese whisky sector, namely Japanese craft whisky, or “Ji-Whisky.” Everything has been about Suntory and Nikka, but there are other Japanese distilleries outside the realm of these two corporate giants.
Monde Shuzo is one such, and although obscure they aren’t actually new to the rest of the world. Their Isawa blend made it to Europe, where it was roundly panned. Now we have the Fujikai 10 Year Old, released in partnership with France’s Les Whiskies du Monde. This import is from a limited run of 8,088 bottles, bottled in 50 cl opaque black bottles at 43% abv.
After spending a decade in ex-bourbon barrels, the whisky has the appearance of well-polished brass in the glass, the kind of thing a seasoned Royal Navy officer might look on with pride.
From there matters take a peculiar turn. Apples stewed in vanilla and spices share the air with seaweed and a chemical current of iodine and acetone. Somehow the scent is fruity, musty and astringent all at the same time.
The flavor continues the confused muddle. The baked apple dessert character has strong notes of sandalwood and an acrid, bitter flavor of smoke running through it. The finish is clearer, leaving a long-lasting warmth and a cinnamon aftertaste. A bitter touch mars the beginning of the end, but this fades rapidly.
I won’t call this bad whisky, but two adjectives I used before describe it succinctly: “peculiar” and “confused.”
£50 or €68.