1981 Karuizawa (bot 2013) K&L Exclusive, cask #8775, 62.3%

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numen
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1981 Karuizawa (bot 2013) K&L Exclusive, cask #8775, 62.3%

Postby numen » Wed Nov 06, 2013 12:16 am

Nose: Syrupy and tightly wound cherries latrices. Brown sugar soup. Soy sauce, smoked Chinese pork ribs (light sulfur?) Moss, earthy mushrooms and old, nourished forest. A little closed, too. With time, oaky rancio, smoke, inscrutable wall of dark fruit, lots of chocolate. Nuts, marzipan, almond extract. Spun sugar and sugar cane almost fermenting. Menthol, too. A bit lighter as it goes on. (with water) Cinnamon, ginger, and soft malty sherry. Honeyed spun sugar comes out. Brown sugar, salty/savory elements become more diffuse. Dry oak with some tannic orange note.

Palate: Warm, but really rich and chewy. Ham, soy sauce, cherries, soft strawberries and sherry notes, hoisin sauce. Oranges, leather, brown sugar, armagnacy wood. Heavy coffee, ginger. Dry, for one. (with water) Water calms it down, yet it's still thick and very oily. Loses some fruit, rather more on richly sweet maltiness, and more of that saucy Chinese/Japanese salt and deluxe soy and oyster sauce.

Finish: A graceful finish of the slightly sweet savory. And maybe just a hint of weak coffee. Palate feels almost clean after a while. This is a very elegant dram, though the finish is short and the fruit is on the edge. More robust with air in the bottle, and really shows off the kind of awesome luxury ham and soy that Karuizawa sometimes does. This is one that must not be rushed, and get better with time and age. I go back and forth on this, it left me wanting and hoping for more, but there's no denying its excellence. Let's call it at A-

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Re: 1981 Karuizawa (bot 2013) K&L Exclusive, cask #8775, 62.

Postby Pierre » Thu Nov 07, 2013 9:54 pm

You make me really want to try some Karuizawa... :twisted: I really need to get me some MoM Spirit of Asama samples. But I'm starting to wonder if japanese whiskies are worth the money they're asking for... Hibiki 12YO sure does not, 17 YO is much better but expensive. Only Takestsuru 21 YO was really impressive up to now, while Yamazaki was enjoyable easy drinking.

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Re: 1981 Karuizawa (bot 2013) K&L Exclusive, cask #8775, 62.

Postby numen » Thu Nov 07, 2013 10:16 pm

It's tough to say whether it's worth the cost or not. In many ways, it's not. Karuizawa, in particular, is absurdly expensive. If you can get it at retail, it's not a terrible value, but once you're looking at the secondary market, it's stupid. The problem is that demand is so high and supply is so low - it sells out extremely quickly wherever it is. The Asama bottles are small batches of stuff from 1999 and 2000 (I think). I've only had the 46% Asama, but there are also 48 and 55% out. There was a recent addition at 50.5%. Karuizawa is known for their heavily sherried (frequently on the sulfur-y side), but you can tell from the ex-bourbon bottles, too, that the distillate is excellent. There is a lot of very good/excellent Japanese whisky out there. Nonjatta had a review of a superb Yamazaki recently, and Hanyu (also silent) was top notch. You can also get samples from Whiskyhuis.be

On the other hand, a bottle of 30 year old Balvenie is going for $700-800 these days, so maybe Karuizawa, on its own, isn't so abnormally priced compared to the other (overly) expensive whiskies. Compared to everything else of such an age, Glenfarclas 40 is a bargain... and it's superb.

Pierre
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Re: 1981 Karuizawa (bot 2013) K&L Exclusive, cask #8775, 62.

Postby Pierre » Thu Nov 07, 2013 11:03 pm

I think you're stating the real problem here: there are scottish bottles that are less expensive and have seduced me on the sherry finished side (thanks again for your reviews of A'Bunadh and Glendronach cask strength), so I'll happily pay a few euros for a sample but am afraid I'll stick to Scotland when I'll indulge into buying a bottle of sherried whisky...

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Re: 1981 Karuizawa (bot 2013) K&L Exclusive, cask #8775, 62.

Postby numen » Thu Nov 07, 2013 11:25 pm

You're totally right -- and those two are insane bargains as Scotch whisky goes. Though, profiles change and vary. For instance, you want lots of coffee and chocolate notes in your whisky, you'll probably need something with a bit of age (and a heavy sherry influence), and, with age, it costs more. It's not always a matter of more expensive or more age makes something better, but in many things the profile changes over time. And then some distilleries have their own character. For instance, older cognac isn't always better, as you know, but it picks up different characteristics as it ages :)

On the other hand, I wouldn't mind having some of that Glendronach around, either!

I'd highlight this:
viewtopic.php?f=19&t=1094

It had way more fruit and richness than I had anticipated it would, and it blew me away. It was also only 13 years old, and it went on sale (pre-sale) for about $140. Macallan 18, a standard offering, goes for around $180-200 in the US. And I wound up liking it more than this '81. I only wish that I had gotten more! Of course, we're talking about 'sherry bombs' here. Every so often, it can also be nice to get a whisky from a third or fourth fill sherry cask, for just a hint of fruit, too. :mrgreen:


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