Releases like this White Oak Akashi Sake Cask make me feel warm and fuzzy about the future of Japanese whisky. And that's not just because it's 50% abv!
Japanese Whisky Shortage for a few years
I mean, sure -- we are in the midst of a global shortage of the stuff. While certainly not "Bitcoin in 2017" levels of appreciation, premium Japanese whisky prices have spiked considerably. Age statement releases have been replaced by new NAS options.
On the other hand, every major player has stepped up to meet the rising demand. Suntory, Nikka, and Kirin have injected tons of cash into their distilling and aging facilities to expand capacity. That's not to mention the onslaught of new distilleries popping up -- it seems like nearly every month we hear about another. Your guess about the demand for Japanese whisky a decade from now is as good as mine. But at least we should have plenty more supply.
And then there's straight up innovation. While nobody has successfully sped up maturation yet (Kavalan is very close though), Japan has been doing its damnest to utilize liquids already on hand. With mixed results. Aging shochu in an oak cask, making it taste like a whisky? Yep. Spreading dwindling aged stocks across a variety of younger blends? Hell, Karuizawa closed 17 years ago, and Hanyu 14 years ago, but they still show up occasionally. Importing older whisky and mixing it with your own younger stuff? Did that too.
White Oak Distillery's Casks
The White Oak Distillery has put their weight behind innovating with casks. Red wine, tequila, Mizunara, cognac, Wild Turkey bourbon, oloroso... you get the picture.
This time around though it's even more special. As I explained when this release was announced, a sake cask is an especially rare breed of cask, given sake typically isn't aged for a significant amount of time. And even if it is for a long time, that generally doesn't happen in oak casks. So yeah, this is only whisky in the world aged in American oak ex-sake casks.
But how rare is it, really? As far as I can tell there are three separate releases of this White Oak Akashi Sake Cask. All weigh in at 3 years old, so presumably all were distilled and sent to the rackhouse around the same time:
- A single cask release limited to Sakayabic stores in Kinki/Chubu. 400 bottles at 500ml/50% abv. 6500 yen before tax.
- A release that is from Akashi. Limited to 2400 bottles. Also 500ml/50% abv. 6048 yen after tax. (this review)
- The Ghost Series #9 release, 500 bottles. 500ml/61.5% abv. 9500 yen after tax. Also another single cask, but at cask strength. (photo right)
I've gotten my hands on #2 and #3, so both are pictured. But this review is of #2 only -- the "official" release direct from Akashi. Let's dive in!
White Oak Akashi Sake Cask Review
Nose: Malted milk balls, walnuts, and vanilla yogurt that you left on the counter overnight. Later on, there's a bit of peat that comes through as well, but it's not very pronounced.
Palate: Bittersweet oranges and a fruit basket are the first thing that hit you. Give it a few more seconds for a velvety mix of chocolate-covered banana, pears, and apples. Dreamy
Finish: Leather, black tea leaves, and a wonderful mild dry peat that last you the rest of the way.
Price paid: 6048 yen before shipping
Whoa! Here's a fantastic whisky that you need in your collection. Don't be fooled by the 3 year aging -- it's already quite amazing where it is. 50% abv isn't absurdly high but I did find this one better with a couple drops of water. Be sure to grab a bottle if you can.