Maltstock 2012 Part 1 – Suntory with Tatsuya Minagawa

The coming of September means a couple of things in my brain – people surprised that yet again we get nice weather at this time of year; the beginning of the march towards the carnage zone that is the last 3 months of the year at The Whisky Exchange (Whisky Show + Christmas = lots of work); and, the first event of the season, Maltstock.

It’s my second year at Maltstock, the second year I’ve run a tasting and the second year that I’ve been late. Although at least this time I remembered my passport and my tardiness was due to traffic rather than a mad dash across London to my flat to grab said passport causing me to miss my train. Thanks must go to the most excellent Ben from Master of Malt – you should all be lovely to him, although of course you should buy all of your booze related items from my employer rather than him.

It was a bit calmer than last year, but I suspect that this was due to my being slightly more at ease when surrounded by an incredible array of whisky than I was last year – rather than drinking I spent much more time meeting people and talking toot. Apart from on the first night, there was some drinking then – I blame Jason, Sjoerd and Gal.

Again the organisers ran an excellent event and I thoroughly recommend coming along next year if you are able to cope with lack of sleep, Sam Simmons‘s (very good) guitar playing outside your window until late, semi-naked Dutchman being cheery when you are hungover, uncomfortable beds, good food and lots of whisky to try.

Tatsuya Minagawa
Tatsuya, pointing

Anyways, I was booked in for three masterclasses on the Saturday and the first was run by Tastsuya Minagawa from Suntory. I annoyingly failed to write complete notes (I was busy writing down bits of company history instead), so here’s what I got on the two whiskies I did manage to get something down about:

Yamazaki Mizunara SampleYamazaki cask sample: New Mizunara (Japanese Oak) – Tatsuya brought this along to show the effect of Mizunara on Yamazaki’s spirit, an important component of the flavour profile of Yamazaki single malt and older versions of their Hibiki blend. It’s quite a rare wood and the casks aren’t particularly great when it comes to storing liquid – they’re quite leaky no matter how well made they are due to the porousness of the wood. However, after World War 2 it was difficult for Japan to get their hands on oak from outside of the country so they started experimenting with local wood. These days they are sorted for casks, but still produce about 100 new Mizunara casks each year to fill with their new spirit.

On the nose it had fresh cut, sandalwood, sweet pastry, sticky vanilla pods, raisins and floral notes. To taste it had huge spiky spice, liquorice, thick vanilla, hot cinnamon, clove and dark wood bitterness. It finished with cedar cigar boxes, sweet butter, lingering floral notes and sweet wood.

Hibiki 21Hibiki 21 – a surprise bottle that appeared at the end of the tasting in honour of it being awarded yet another medal at the International Spirits Challenge. It’s a whisky that only appears in small amounts in the UK that I’ve been meaning to try for a while – I’m a big fan of the 17 year old so have been wondering if I should upgrade.

On the nose it was floral and gluey (two of the trademark notes I find in Hibiki) with sweet pastry, glacé cherries, sandalwood and liquorice. To taste it was soft with apircot, cinnamon spiciness, dark chocolate and freshly cut apple. It finished with spicy wood, cinnamon and liquorice. Another great entry in the Hibiki range, but dialled back on the palate from the 17 and not quite as much to my taste – still a great whisky though.

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