Review #12: Kaiyo Mizunara Oak
4 out of 10. Not for me.
If it were a SMWS: “Wood varnish”.
Overview: Hot and young with the aftertaste of wood varnish and cherry cough syrup. There is a glimpse of drinkability mid-palate but it fades quickly.
Bought for: $70/bottle at K&L (probably)
You may notice that the bottle levels of this whisky are low on the corresponding picture. So why the poor review? Are we merely writing a bad review so that we diminish the whisky’s selling value in order to purchase all the glorious liquor for own hoarding?
It’s become so reviled in our household (after tasting many times to make sure we absolutely did not like it) that it’s become the “go to” for when we have a drunk acquaintance (typically a friend of a friend) at our house that probably could not tell gin from mezcal, but demands some Yamazaki. For this purpose, it is fantastic. “Have you tried this new upstart Japanese whisky? It’s super new!” we declare. Honestly, we don’t remember how we ended up purchasing a bottle, but it was likely an alcohol-fueled decision and a poor one at that.
We have also tried (with no success) to incorporate this whisky into manhattans, thinking that perhaps the vermouth might soften the off-cherry flavor, but the cocktails went largely not drunk. Now onto the tasting notes.
Nose: Orange… and citrusy wood varnish
Palate: Every now and then, there was actually a pleasant sip where, if sipped just right, there is a front hit of sweet ginger honey, vanilla, pineapple. But this is rapidly taken over by a burning sensation, with strong wood flavors and wood varnish, and fake caramel and artificial cherry cough syrup. Then there’s more fire.
Thinking that perhaps it was because it is a cask-strength whisky, we added some water. Vanilla, oranges and mangoes came out, but it started tasting very thin. I generally like cask-strength whiskies, but it takes a good distiller to discern the taste that can come up at such a high ABV without causing a searing sensation.
No age statement
Aged in Mizunara oak, then aged at sea for 3 months
Malt: unknown. K&L claims it to be a teaspooned whisky from an unnamed Japanese distiller.
Japanese oak (Mizunara) was used originally out of necessity during World War II because Japan was unable to receive imported European or American barrels.
Mizunara oak is not easily used as barrel material, because the trees grows curved and also must grow to 200 years old before it grows large enough to be used as a cask.
Mizunara barrels now cost $6,500 to $7,500 a barrel and are known to impart woody, incense, and coconut flavors to whisky (Yamazaki and Bowmore whiskies aged in such casks have sold at four figure prices)
Kaiyo means “Ocean Matured”
Post-script: After doing the research for the fun facts and additional information sections, we strongly suspect this whisky is basically a Japanese white dog mash that is aged for several months, with 3 of them at sea… and is helmed by a marketing team with a fluid relationship with integrity.