Is Karuizawa the best Whisky I have ever tasted? It’s bloody close

For the past week, I have been searching for my Moleskin notebook. For a while, I had turned my back on it and started using ‘Tad’ my fancy iPad. But there is less satisfaction in writing notes on an iPad. There is something more tangible when writing down notes in a notebook. Hence my search.


This notebook, once finished, will sit in my bookcase. In time, it will be joined  by many more, all  filled with whisky notes. They will tell a story of what I did with part of my life. When I look back over these notes, I will see a little bit of my past self and how I felt at the time. Handwriting can show how rushed you were, how relaxed you were or even if you were slightly inebriated. The feelings you express on paper show how you felt at the time, the jokes you made show how you perceived the world at the time. What has this got to do with Karuizawa? When I finally found my notebook (down the back of my desk, beside a couple of 10p coins and an old Dairy Milk Chocolate bar) I had a little read through recent whisky tastings, and it hit me. I had never written about Karuizawa! I was blown away by this fact, since Karuizawa is one of the best whisky’s I have ever tasted. It certainly punches it’s way into the top 5. Now, I don’t profess to be an expert on Japanese Whisky (I don’t profess to be an expert on anything really) so I borrowed this next bit of information from Number One Drinks Website (they distribute Karuizawa worldwide, and I will talk about them a little later)

Karuizawa karuizawa-image Karuizawa was actually a vineyard in 1955 when then-owner Daikoku-budoshu decided to enter a Japanese whisky industry still in its infancy, and base a distillery in the shadow of active volcano, Mount Asama. In 1962, it then merged with current owner, Mercian. The distillery is tiny and the aim is traditional, small-scale production to create quality whiskies. Karuizawa uses 100% Golden Promise barley, wooden washbacks, small stills and sherry casks sourced from Spain. The water has been filtered through lava rock and the distillery experiences very hot summers and extremely cold winters which results in a different maturation profile.

The Karuizawa sample I got to taste was given to me by Ben and Darren from Master of Malt.


Karuizawa Noh Bottling.noh

1977 32 Years old. Cask 4592

So limited, it’s probably already gone

Abv 60.70%

Nose:Unbelievable. Smoky bacon. Crispy Pork, BBQ sauce. Coriander. cinnamon and chilli chocolate.

Palate: A dark red wine grapiness, blood oranges, cigars, chocolate and a slight freshness, like cucumbers.

Finish: Bitter chocolate and coffee beans. Heavenly. Upsetting, since my sample is gone.

Person: We are going to start comparing Whisky to people again, because it was fun. Uma Thurman. Complex, attractive. You would love to meet in a bar, because she would be fascinating to speak to. 


We as whisky drinking public, were never really destined to taste Kariuzawa. Speaking to Marcin Miller from Number 1 drinks earlier, he said that there hadn’t been any notable distillation since early 2000 and that the stocks built up from the 70′s, 80′s and 90′s were really destined exclusively for the Japanese market. Thank God Number One Drinks stepped in and purchased all of  Kariuzawa’s remaining stocks, so they could  distribute worldwide. Like collectors and travellers of old, Marcin and David are bringing  jewels in the form of beautiful single cask whisky, from far flung shores. Some of the best Japan has to offer. Kariuzawa is distributed by Number 1 drinks. You can buy it from Master of Malt, The Whisky Exchange, Royal Mile Whiskies. Search everywhere, as it’s bloody difficult to get your hands on. It sells out quickly! If you find a bottle of the 1985, I want it! (1985 being my vintage). Now to get back to recording my thoughts in my Moleskin.


(If you want to read subsequent interviews with Marcin Millar, and more tasting notes of new Karuizawa releases, read here, here and here)

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