Happy New Year!!
Back in August, last year, whisky based social media began to explode with a hashtag of #EastMeetsWest and the reason behind this was the long awaited new release from Bowmore, their Mizunara Cask Finish.
Now, NAS whiskies, with a fancy finish, are certainly nothing new, and you'd be right for questioning why such a whisky was getting so much hype, but it seems the unique selling point behind this whisky was the fact that it had been finished, for around 3 years, in Mizunara oak, which had been exported from Japan for the first time ever.
Mizunara casks, whilst widely used in Japan, have, until now, never seen the shores of the British Isles and I was certainly interested to see how this exotic wood would impact on a classic peated malt.
The whisky itself is made up of whiskies distilled in the 1990s which would mean that all whiskies involved in this bottling could maybe be between 15 and 25 years old. Given that this is a NAS whisky I would guess that we are looking at the lower end of this spectrum and Beam Suntory knew fine rightly that if they were to stick an age of 15yo on this, at the price it retailed at, then eyebrows would be raised even further than they already were.
Moving onto the price, a look around most websites shows that, when in stock, this retailed at around £650!!! Further investigation would suggest that the inevitable arrival of these bottles onto the auction scene has seen them reach around £1000 per sale.
The release was limited to 2000 bottles and the whisky itself was bottled at a cask strength of 53.9%.
Onto my notes:
Nose - Delicious. Soft gentle peat, as you would expect, with soft toasted oats and rich porridge. Ginger biscuits. The fruit borders on the tropical with cooked banana, watermelon and spiced orange. Nice note of vanilla chocolate which leans towards milk chocolate. There's a few dusty notes in here that give a sense of age. With water the wood becomes more prevalent and it is smoked in nature...naturally. It also becomes more vibrant with intense orange cream.
Palate - Bitter, acrid smoke arrival but this is not as unpleasant as it's sounds. Definite hint of salt. As the arrival eases the fruit starts to appear but it needs a little water. Just before the water was added there was a little dry wood and wood smoke. With water the bitterness is eased just enough to let the orange and smoke to come together wonderfully. The casks still have their say though with a lip smacking intensity.
Finish - Great length with the fruits becoming fresher and the mouthfeel becoming drier, think of an intense dry white wine. At the end the soft Bowmore peat comes back for one last hurrah and this entices you back in for a another sip.
Overall this is a great whisky and a great example of an excellent Islay distillery showing that you don't always have to be all Ardbeg with your peat to get the peat experience across to whisky drinkers. The Bowmore style is one that I am enjoying more and more each time I encounter it. This is no exception, the softness of the peat marries perfectly with the fruits and you do get a sense that the wood has brought this all together.
That said, I do have a few issues here. Firstly, I don't really get what this wood has added to what I've already tasted before from Bowmore. Maybe a few more tropical notes but nothing mind blowingly different.
Secondly, the price for this whisky is quite simply OUTRAGEOUS. In my opinion, those of you who paid the £650 when it was released are crazy, and those of you who are paying £1000 for this at auction need locked up for your own good. Yes this is a very tasty whisky but I'm going to make a suggestion that might send a few of you over the edge.
There is another Bowmore expression, that I have enjoyed in a similar sense, and it won't cost you the earth to buy. For me you can all keep your bottles of Mizunara Cask and I shall stick to the Bowmore "Small Batch Reserve".
At around £35 a bottle this won't break the bank and, for me, is just as tasty. Slightly different, for sure, but a clean, crisp, peated whisky that shows off a soft character whilst showing the classic Bowmore spirit off in a relatively natural form.
Well that wraps that up and lastly I would to say a special thanks to all who have read this blog over 2015. Unforeseen circumstances meant that my writing tailed off towards the end of 2015 but this is now 2016 and I shall be getting back into the swing of things with plenty of reviews coming up. Hopefully you shall enjoy reading them as much as I enjoy tasting them.
Until next time,