Awamori is the island of Okinawa's gift to the spirits world. Though sometimes confused with rum, awamori is made with long grain Asian rice and a black koji native to Okinawa, Aspergillus awamori. Tonight we are drinking something extremely rare in the world of awamori: a single cask aged awamori.
As we discussed back when this crowdfunding project was announced, awamori is traditionally aged using something similar to sherry's solera system. That is to say, you would blend together awamoris of various age--from different urns sitting outside your door--as you work your way through the drink. Since awamori doesn't need oak tannins, it ordinarily doesn't use oak casks for aging. And even when it does, you sure as hell don't see single cask bottles around.
So while most whisky drinkers know exactly what "single cask" means when you use the phrase, the concept is virtually non-existent in awamori.
"Toretour" (トゥリトール) is Okinawan for quiet. This awamori spent 11.5 years in a white oak cask at the Yaesen Distillery on Ishigaki, quietly being matured.
For more background on the project and this bottle, read the writeup from earlier this year.
Let's give this unique bottle a try!
Review: No.223 ToRETOUR Cask
Nose: I've had quite a lot of awamori in my time but this is in a category of its own. It's oaky with thick vanilla and peppery spices, then mango and apricot later on.
Palate: We get the raw fire of awamori to start out, followed by loads of grainy, rich buttery oakiness. Thick!
Finish: Spicy black pepper, brown sugar syrup
Price paid: 10000 yen (40% abv, 700ml)
They say some 50-80% of whisky's flavor comes from the cask it's matured in, and drinking something like this, I definitely agree. Since it contains no malt there's obviously none of that malty goodness we get from whisky, but in its place we have an unmistakable awamori palate that transports you right to Okinawa. A fantastic hybrid spirit that I hope many an awamori maker can learn from.
By the way, if the awamori looks cloudy in the pic, that's because it is! In order to legally classify this as a liqueur, they had to add some (tasteless) dietary fiber to the mix.
Whiskey Richard is the founder of nomunication.jp, and has been saying he has lived in Japan for ten years for the past four years. He enjoys drinking basically anything except straight-up Campari.