By Richard Thomas
How someone in Japan could put good whisky in the same kind of utilitarian packaging one might use for a big bottle of beer is beyond me, but don’t let that throw you. Ohishi whiskies might not measure up to the finest The Yamazaki has to offer, but it’s pretty good stuff and ought not be confused with cheapo sake.
Although in one way, not using such a bottle style is appropriate for Ohishi, because they aren’t in the business of making Scotch-style whisky like Suntory or Nikka. Instead, Ohishi Distillery uses a mix of malted and unmalted rice. If that sounds funky, remember whisky requires the use of grain, and rice is a grain. What is more, Ohishi has been around since 1872, so they certainly aren’t a newcomer to fermenting and distilling rice liquors.
In the glass, Ohishi Brandy Cask shows little of the color you would expect from whisky aged in a Brandy Cask, suggesting either it’s not very old or the casks are third- or fourth-fill. The liquid is pale, white gold in color, but has a viscous, thick look that drops some pretty slow-moving tears. It’s bottled at 83.2 proof.
The nose is light and airy, and it is because of that airiness that it can smack of caramel and apples without coming off as a caramel apple. A trace of licorice and anise rounds out the scent. The flavor follows in a similar vein, but comes across even sweeter due to an added note of honey. The finish is distinct, sweet and caramelized, and a bit out of place following such a light, delicate experience.
Compared to the better known rice whisky, Kikori, Ohishi Brandy Cask is sweeter and certainly more interesting. Yet all the same, I usually expect a overly delicate whisky to make up for what it lacks in body with some extra complexity, and this stuff doesn’t. That is the main thing holding it back. It either needs more aging or a newer, more vital Brandy cask stock, but there is at least a good base to work with.
At $75 a bottle, you are probably better off sampling this to satisfy your curiosity than buying a bottle, keeping in mind that amount of money can buy some nice Japanese whiskies.