Showing posts with label Blended Japanese Whisky Review. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Blended Japanese Whisky Review. Show all posts

Ichiro's Malt Wine Wood Reserve Review

“Blackberry Way”

Whisky Review # 875

Country: Japan
Region: North of Tokyo
Brand: Ichiro's Malt Wine Wood Reserve - Leaf Series
Blended at: Chichibu Distillery
Type: Japanese Blended Malt Whisky
Age: NAS
Alcohol By Volume (ABV): 46%
Maturation: Possibly a mix of Bourbon, Sherry & Mizunara Wood. Red Wine Finish
Chill Filtration: No
Average Price : US$ 260 (June 2020) - Lowest Price: US$ 128 (June 2020)
Price/Quality Ratio: 👎 Too expensive for such a Young Whisky
Buying Advice: 😀 It's expensive but if you love Red Wine Finish, go for it!


Dark Amber with shades of Brown and Orange (Natural Colour)


It's a young Whisky but the Red Wine casks mask this fact convincingly without over-powering the other Aromas. Nicely done. It's Medium-Sweet and quite Fruity with lots of Dark Red Fruits like Berries. Soft and Pleasant.

Main Aromas:

Sweet Barley, Butter Biscuits, Toffee, Vanilla, Dark Red Fruit (Berries), Cassis, Fresh Apricot, Dried/Fresh Herbs, Milk-Chocolate, Oak, Cinnamon, Cloves, Mint, Cardamom and Licorice.

Supportive Aroma Accents:

Roasted Nuts, Coffee Beans, Dried Fruit like Raisins and Banana, Grass & Straw, Floral Soap, Apple Strudel, Bounty Candy Bars, Nougat, Orange, Polished Leather and Pepper. A hint of overcooked Vegetables.


The Red Wine casks are more present now without being dominant. Again they succeed in partly obscuring the Youth of this Whisky. The Palate presents a mix of Sweet, Bitter and Sour notes. As you know I'm not a huge fan of Red Wine cask finishing but here it works.

Main Flavours:

Sweet Malted Barley, Caramel, Roasted Nuts, Red Berries, Plum Jam, Seville-Orange, Apple Strudel, Milk Chocolate, Oak, Cinnamon, Aniseed and Mint. 

Supportive Flavour Accents:

Honey, Toffee, Toast, Vanilla, Dried Fruit (Raisins, Dates and Figs), Grapefruit, Lemon-Pepper, Herbal Tea, Polished Leather, Dusty Track, Bounty Candy Bars, Cloves and Soy Sauce.


Medium-Long. Medium-Dry. Mainly Sweet with a few Bitter and Spicy notes as well for balance. The Red Wine casks are more noticeable now without overdoing it. I find Sweet Barley, Toffee, Caramel, Vanilla, Honey, Grass, Straw, Seville Orange, Blackberries, Raspberries, Dried and Fresh Herbs, Oak, (Lemon) Pepper, Ginger, Aniseed, Cinnamon, Cardamom, Chocolate, Cherry-Flavoured Cough Syrup, Metal and Mushrooms.

Drinking Advice:

No need to add Water to this Wine Wood Reserve as the ABV of 46% is spot-on.

Rating: 86.5

Nose: 22 - Taste: 22 - Finish: 21 - Overall: 21.5

Drinking Experience Neat: Good


This Japanese Whisky is named after Ichiro Akuto, the owner/founder of the Chichibu distillery founded in 2008. He is a grandson of the founder of Hanyu, a distillery that was closed in 2004. Ichiro managed to buy around 400 casks of Hanyu Malt. Ichiro's Malt Wine Wood Reserve is a blend of Malt Whisky from these two distilleries. Over the years the Hanyu part in the blend decreases of course. Wine Wood Reserve is finished in egg-shaped French Oak Red Wine Casks called Ovums. They are produced in the Charentes region by Taransaud and are used in the Bordeaux region.

Ichiro's Malt Wine Wood Reserve is a well-made Red Wine cask finished blended Malt. This finish manages to largely obscure the Youth of the Spirit. Ichiro for some reason has become a bit of a cult Whisky and prices have gone through the roof. Objectively speaking I can't understand this hype. Ichiro has produced some nice Malts but it is very Young Whisky and we should not forget that! Still, if you are a big fan of Red Wine Cask Finishing and you have the cash, you won't be disappointed with this Wine Wood Reserve.


Jan van den Ende                                                                          June 1, 2020

Chichibu Distillery

Suntory Kakubin Review

“Highball Star”

Country: Japan
Brand: Suntory Kakubin Yellow Label
Type: Blended Japanese Whisky
Age: NAS
Alcohol: 40%

Colour: Dark Golden 

Nose: The Alcohol is quite present so please give the Kakubin enough time in the glass to open up. The Kakubin is immediately recognisable as a Japanese whisky as the Aroma is quite distinctive. I'm nosing on the edge of the glass as the Alcohol remains strong. I find Floral and Fruity tones, young Grain Alcohol, Brown Sugar, Caramel, Plums, Sweet Candies, young Bourbon, Nuts, Cinnamon, Vanilla, light Honey, light Coconut Water and a little Citrus. It's nothing special but better than your average cheap Scottish Blend. I would rate it even higher if not for the sharp Alcohol that spoils a bit of the fun.

Taste: Watery, Sugary Sweet, Edgy and slightly Bitter with Grain Alcohol, Oak, Cereals, light Vanilla, light Honey, Grapefruit, light Pepper and light Ginger. What a disappointment after the reasonable Nose. 

Finish: Short, Sugary Sweet and Watery with light Honey, Grapefruit, Nuts, Nut Shells, Grains, light Vanilla, Oak, light Pepper and Ginger.  

Added Water completely kills this Blend. It does not even taste like Whisky anymore.

Rating: 73   

Nose: 20 – Taste: 17.5 - Finish: 17 – Overall: 18.5

General Remarks: The Kakubin (Square Bottle) Blend has been produced by Suntory since 1937 and contains a.o. Malt Whisky from Yamazaki and Hakushu. These whiskies mature in a variety of casks that include Ex-Sherry and Ex-Wine casks. It's the best selling Whisky in Japan as it's very cheap there at around 20 US Dollars. It's mainly used in cocktails though such as the Highball. The marks on the bottle are made to look like the shell of a turtle, the Japanese symbol for a long and prosperous life. Strangely enough the name Kakubin is not at all mentioned on the bottle. There are two more versions of the Kakubin available in Japan, the White and the Black Label. I will try to get samples somehow. Prices vary substantially between 12 and 40 US Dollars depending on where you live (May 2021). In Japan, the Price/Quality ratio is okay but no way I would spend over 20 US Dollars to get this Blend.

A Nice Highball

Drinking Experience Neat: Below Average

Drinking Experience on the Rocks: Okay 

Conclusion: Most Japanese use the Kakubin Yellow Label as a cheap ingredient for their cocktails, especially the Highball. That's the only reason why it's the best selling Whisky in Japan. Because it does not have sufficient Aromas and Flavours to qualify as a sipping Whisky. The Nose is not bad although the strong Alcohol spoils a bit of the fun. On the Palate and in the Short Finish however, the Kakubin is Watery, Sugary Sweet, Edgy and totally unsatisfactory. I got this bottle as an anniversary gift and I'm now calculating how many Highballs I need to drink before this bottle goes to the graveyard. I hope I like Highballs!

Jan van den Ende                                                             September 10, 2015

Nikka Blended Whisky Review

Country: Japan
Brand: Nikka
Type: Blended Whisky
Age: NAS 
ABV: 40 % 
Date: 25/11/2013

Colour: Full Gold

Nose: Medium-Light but not at all unpleasant with Dried Fruits, Pear, Cherries, Malt, Vanilla, Heather, Toasted Cereals, Coconut, Almonds, Bourbon, light Oak, Butter and Orange-Peel. Mostly Refill Ex-Bourbon Casks probably but also a bit of local Wood. The Alcohol is not fully integrated.

Palate: Light, Fruity and Crisp with Pear, Toasted Grains, light Orange, Lemon Peel, Almonds, Honey, Alcohol, light Spices, Malt, light Licorice and light Oak.

Finish: Short and Clean with Malt, Toasted Cereals, slightly Bitter Oak, light Licorice, Honey, Alcohol and light Spices.

With a bit of water the Nose gets more Malt, Butter, Heather and Honey. But Palate and Finish become too Thin.

Rating: 82

Nose: 21 - Taste: 20.5 - Finish: 20 - Overall: 20.5

The Yoichi Distillery

General Remarks: The Nikka Whisky Distilling Co. Ltd owns two Single Malt Distilleries in Japan (Yoichi and Miyagikyo) as well as Ben Nevis in Scotland. 
They also produce a lot of Blended Whisky and the NAS 40% we are tasting today is one of the entrance expressions. It sells at around 50 US Dollars. The best known blends are probably Nikka from the Barrel and Black Nikka, the latter mainly in Japan. Nikka was founded by Masataka Taketsuri. He studied Chemistry at the University of Glasgow between 1918 and 1920 and worked and learnt as apprentice at Distilleries like Longmorn and Hazelburn. Apparently he was very gifted because later on Masataka became a Master-Blender. Nowadays the Nikka Whisky Distilling Company is part of Asahi Breweries. 

Drinking Experience Neat: Good

Conclusion: The Nikka tastes better than the average Scottish Blends but is also more expensive. The Nose is understated but not unpleasant. On the Palate and in the Finish there's not too much going on really but it's quite drinkable. I did not detect any off-notes. It would certainly be acceptable as an every day Blend if it was a bit less expensive!

Jan van den Ende                                                       November, 2013