White Oak Akashi Coming to the US?



It is definitely an exciting time to be a Japanese Whisky enthusiast here in the US. Up until the past 1-2 years it has been a painfully slow trickle of Japanese whiskies arriving on our shores. Suntory established the beachhead for this recent single malt explosion with their Yamazaki 12 and 18. They slowly released additional expressions and now we have a decent amount of their standard lineup available here. We are now also able to purchase a solid number of Nikka’s whiskies: expressions from both of their distilleries Yoichi and Miyagikyou as well as some of their Pure Malts. Chichibu is also knocking. One label has already been approved by the TTB and Akuto San has started holding tasting seminars to introduce his whiskies to US customers.

Although not at the pace that we have seen, I did expect that these brands would eventually make it to the US. However, this latest Japanese whisky distillery looking at entering the US market took me by surprise. White Oak, sometimes referred to as Eigashima, located in Akashi City, Hyogo Prefecture, is primarily a sake and shochu producer. While they have been releasing more single malt and blended whisky expressions lately, I did not expect this distillery to try to tackle the US market. It appears that White Oak is poised to launch two expression here in the near future. A single malt that has been aged 3 years and that comes in at 46%ABV and a blended whisky (no age statement) that comes in at 40% ABV. There is currently no indication as to what the price point might be for these whiskies, but they should be fairly affordable – lower than the other Japanese whiskies already available here – if their pricing remains similar to what it is in the Japan domestic market. Perhaps what I am most curious about, other than flavor profile, is the shape of the bottle they decide to use. In Japan, White Oak is easily recognizable by the 500ml bottle that they use. As we all know, White Oak will not be able to continue to use this size bottle in the US.

It is always great to have more Japanese whisky options here but to be honest I have always been pretty lukewarm to White Oak expressions. See our reviews of two White Oak expressions here. Here’s to hoping these two new releases will be solid expressions that we can enjoy. Maybe even at an affordable price, but given the whisky market these days that might be asking for too much.

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Glenfiddich Age of Discovery


I always felt that Glenfiddich is an excellent whisky at an excellent price and is readily available. What more could you ask for? In addition to their solid standard lineup the distillery releases a unique expression here in the US about once a year. We have seen the Snow Phoenix, Cask of Dreams and Malt Master’s Edition over the past couple of years. This year Glenfiddich is releasing their Age of Discovery expression for the first time here. Previously it was only for travel retail, for which it was very appropriately named. Earlier versions included a Madiera cask and a wine casks and both were aged for 19 years. This US release is also aged for 19 years but this time exclusively in ex-bourbon casks. It does come in fairly low at 40% ABV.

Color: Light copper and orange

Nose: Apples, citrus, definitely a vibrant bourbon barrel influence, barley, apple turns more into an apple pie filling sweetness, cinnamon, leather, very harmonious – everything seems to be in its proper place

Mouth: Full of apples and spices, again with vibrant bourbon notes of citrus and vanilla, surprisingly full bodied at such a low ABV, very well put together, a touch dry, a bit of the alcohol comes out more at the back end along with a small touch of bitterness. I tried a touch of water but it completely fell apart on me. I wouldn’t add water to this one.

Finish: Short but not weak. A wisp of the baking spices is the last flavor to leave my mouth.

Overall a very mild mannered and well put together whisky. Don’t mistake this comment to imply a lack of flavor though as it definitely does have it. It is a whisky that you can sit with and drink all night.

*Thank you M Collective for the sample*

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More Releases of Suntory and Nikka for the US Market!

The Japanese whisky companies that already have a presence here in the US (Suntory and Nikka) have been very busy over the summer.  In fact, it looks like a mini-arms race broke out.  Both Suntory and Nikka appear poised to increase and diversify their existing line up.  Currently Suntory offers the Yamazaki 12 and 18, Hakushu 12 and Hibiki 12.  Nikka recently entered the US market with Yoichi 15 and Taketsuru 12.

Yamazaki 25

Suntory is going big with a new release for the Yamazaki line and for the Hakushu line.  Contrary to the current trend of younger whiskies and non-age statement expression, Suntory is releasing the venerable Yamazaki 25.  This release has earned some very distinguished awards over the years including the 2012 Best Single Malt Whisky at the World Whiskies Awards.  The Yamazaki 25 will come in at 43% ABV.  As for pricing we don’t have those details yet but if it is anywhere near the pricing in Japan (~$900) it is going to be a luxury bottle.


Suntory also decided to go big with their new Hakushu release – big peat that is.  The new release will be the Hakushu Heavily Peated.  This has been an annual release in Japan of 3000 bottles that has tended to sell out very quickly.  Suntory is bringing the Heavily Peated in at a lower ABV though.  In Japan the release has always been at 48% ABV but the label for the US version indicates that it will be released here at 43% ABV.  The pricing should be closer to the $100 mark as that is roughly what it sells for retail across the pond.


Nikka is introducing the US to its other single malt distillery, Miyagikyo.  This distillery is located in the northern part of Japan’s main island Honshu, in Sendai, Miyagi Prefecture.  This is still south of Nikka’s Yoichi distillery which is on the northern island of Hokkaido.  The Miyagikyo expression will be 12 years old and bottled at 45% ABV.

Taketsuru 17

Nikka is also supplementing its pure malt line with the Taketsuru 17 and the 21.  Taketsuru is a pure malt in that it is a vatting of two single malt whisky distilleries:  Yoichi and Miyagikyo (Sorry Scotch Whisky Association – can’t prohibit a Japanese whisky company from using the term pure malt).  Both Taketsuru expressions will be bottled at 43% ABV.

Taketsuru 21

Unfortunately the details of when all of these expressions will be released are unknown to us at this time.  But we imagine that they will try to have them ready to roll out or start to announce them in the fall – whisky season here.  As we get more information on release dates and pricing we will update.  Keep it up Suntory and Nikka! Get these new expression into the market and keep more of them coming in!

*Photos from TTB Applications*

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Nikka Whisky Adding To Their US Line Up: Coffey Grain


It appears that Nikka Whisky is confident enough to introduce another expression to its US line up. Interestingly though it is a grain whisky release instead of a malt or even a blended release (wouldn’t we all love to see Nikka From the Barrel here in the US?). It has not been officially announced by Nikka Whisky or their importer Anchor Distilling Co. but Nikka looks poised to release their Coffey Grain expression here shortly as it has recently cleared the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) labeling certification process. This coincides with Nikka’s recent launch of a regular (not special single cask) release of the Coffey Grain in Japan.

The Coffey Grain derives its name from the Coffey still that is used to distill the grain spirit – not from anything remotely related to coffee. Nikka imported its Coffey still from Scotland in 1963 and it now resides in its Miyakikyou Distillery. This will be a non-age statement release and is anticipated to come in at 45% ABV. I don’t have any word on what the price point will be at this time.

We have tried Nikka’s Single Coffey Grain and quite enjoyed it but it was a different animal from what this regular release will be. It will be interesting to see how drinkers react to a Japanese grain whisky – maybe Nikka has its sights set on taking some of the popular cocktail market with this release. Either way I am glad that Nikka is moving towards introducing more of its expressions to the US market.

*label photos from TTB application approval*



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Exclusive US Market Karuizawas

As initially reported at Nonjatta earlier and later here on WhiskyWall, a retailer here in the US is releasing two single cask expressions of the much coveted Karuizawa. The retailer turns out to be K&L Wine Merchants here in California. This is very surprising on a couple of levels. First, as we all know the stocks of Karuizawa are rapidly dwindling and there just isn’t much left. Second, the amount of Japanese whisky available in the US is extremely limited – Nikka has only been available here since the beginning of 2013 and even then it is only two expressions.

The procurement of these two casks has been a long time coming. The spirits buyers at K&L, David Driscoll and David Othenin-Girard, had the foresight to start trying to track down some Karuizawa to bring to the US back in 2011. Coming to terms with the Number One Drinks Company to procure these two casks was only the beginning though. The much maligned booze laws and bureaucracy made importing the whisky to the US a challenging process. But finally after two years of work these bottles are on their way and now available for pre-arrival ordering. I had the opportunity to try a small sample of each but didn’t have a lot of time to really break each of them down. So my impressions will have to be supplemented after I get the chance to spend some more time with each of them.

Noh, Karuizawa, Japanese Whisky

The first cask is 12 years old and was distilled in 1999. It is a first fill sherry butt (cask #869) and comes in at 58.9% ABV. This feisty 12 year old is actually a very balanced easy sipper that hides the high ABV well. Do not confuse this with being a boring or one dimensional dram at all. There is a depth of overripe red fruits, fragrant wood, incense and orange. I am particularly sensitive to sulpher with sherry casks and I am happy to report that I didn’t detect any with this one. I am hesitant to say that this one can be a session whisky, albeit a very high end one.

Noh, Karuizawa, Japanese Whisky

The second elder brother cask is 30 years old and was distilled in 1981. This is also a sherry butt (cask #8775) and was bottled at 64.4% ABV. This is a true whisky geek whisky in my opinion. The layers of flavor seem to go on forever. The first thing that hit me was how rutty it was – I was not expecting that at all. I picked up a hint of flint smoke along with the dense sherry signature, variety of baking spices and fragrant wood (like the 12 y/o). This is one that you really have to sit with for awhile to get through and find all of the flavors that are hiding in it.

Both bottles are available to be pre-ordered now here and here.  K&L is estimating that they will arrive and be available for pick up sometime in late summer/early fall. These bottles will not last long and I don’t foresee another release of Karuizawa for the US market ever again.


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A Special Nonjatta Bottling of Karuizawa

In a huge surprise our favorite Japanese Whisky blog Nonjatta announced that it is releasing its own bottling of the much famed Karuizawa. Read the details here and get it while you can!

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Single Cask Nation Kilchoman


This is the second bottling from the new independent bottlers over at the Single Cask Nation that I am reviewing. The first was a very unique and fun Arran that I enjoyed a lot. Kilchoman’s have been a bit of hit and miss for me. The are numerous single cask bottlings out there – some excellent, others not so much. I’m hopeful that this one falls into the excellent catagory.

Color: Translucent yellow

Nose: Buttery, simple syrup coated peat, medicinal, coal, rutty, dusty, some farmy rumblings in there as well

Palate: Ashy, sweet, coal, then the farmy and vegetative flavors start coming through

Comments: This guy was a bit of an oddball and follows the trend of uniqueness that the Arran expression started for me. It is definitely still a youngin’ but the farmy/vegetative notes brought something else to the regular peat and coal party of flavors.

* Many thanks to the Single Cask Nation for providing me with this sample *

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The US Market to Get Some Karuizawa


Sticking with the same theme as our last post about more Japanese whisky entering the US market – it looks like we are getting even more.  I was truly surprised to find out that there will be two single cask bottlings of Karuizawa available here this year through K&L Wines based in California.  The now silent Karuizawa has become the Port Ellen of Japanese whiskies when it comes to the fervent demand for the precious few bottles that are released.  The two spirits buyers at K&L, David Driscoll and David Othinen-Girard, worked hard and managed to secure a cask from 1981 bottled at 62.9% ABV and another from 1999 bottled at 58.3% ABV.  As expected for Karuizawa both casks are Sherry Butts.  It is also anticipated that these bottles will come wrapped in the ever-popular Noh series labels.  Given that bottles of Karuizawa are selling out in literally seconds in Japan, I am thankful that these bottles will be available here in the US – maybe I’ll have a better chance at being able to buy a bottle.


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Chichibu to the US


As they say: When it rains it pours – and this is a storm that I am truly grateful for. Just this past December we saw the introduction of Nikka Whisky into the US market with their Taketsuru 12 and Yoichi 15. Now there is word that Ichiro Akuto and his Chichibu malts will be taking the plunge into the US as well. In some ways this seems to make sense because Chichibu is already available in Europe, however I am surprised by how quickly Akuto San decided to enter the market here. Suntory has only slowly over several years released the 4 currently available expressions here and as mentioned Nikka only launched a couple of months ago. It is not clear when exactly Chichibu will officially launch here or with what expressions. We will update as we obtain more information. If you are in the US and would like to meet Akuto San and chat a bit about his whiskies he will be attending the Nth Universal Whisky Experience in Las Vegas March 1 – 2.


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The Scotch Malt Whisky Society of America Outturn

Many thanks to the SMWSA for these fun samples. This round was a very diverse and very pleasing lot. Nate had a lot of fun sampling and taking notes on these.

Refill Barrel
57.8% ABV

Light yellow. The nose brings brings a bright heat. Sweet grain and sugar. Clean and hot, curious, darker grain notes in the nose with pepper and roasted sugar. Good complexity for a grain whisky. Actually lingers with some powdered sugar and warm, malty starch notes. A little bit of a journey as opposed to the quick, sugary gestalt of many grain liquors.

Refill Hogshead
60.0% ABV

Pale, white light tinged straw. Hard, earthy, peat-edged front with some sweet oil in abundance. And some fresh corn and dust round out the nose. Load of middle-palate peat… And sugar is not lacking. Full, only slightly adulterated grains. Lingering peat, spice and some heat. A natural palate of clear flavors. Not filled with exciting peculiarities, instead executing some solid fundamentals well.

Refill Butt
50.5% ABV

Nice 18 carat with tiny touch of red. A little burnt red malt, wet tangerine and bread waft up. Dynamic nose. Lush, watery mouth, smoke rises with condensed fruit. Touch o’ the Speyside in the toasted grains, and a bit of gum.

First-fill Barrel
57.4% ABV

A rather pale yellow. Fruit and water, tropical and tight nose. Pleasing subtle fruit, playful mouthfeel. Sugars kick in but not overly much. Fun, light, flavorful, almost lacking in the earthy, land-bound elements of whisky… An ethereal dram with a touch of medicine. I think this is what the angels are taking as their share from most whiskeys.

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