This is our first proper tasting of a bottle from Gaiaflow's Shizuoka Distillery. They've been in business for nearly three years now, but they haven't actually released any bottles to the general public. Why not?
That's because Shizuoka Distillery isn't ready to call most of their liquid "whisky" just yet. They won't do so until it has spent some more time in the casks -- at least three years. That anniversary actually happened late last year, so the expectation is that they'll be able to release a single malt at some point in the near future. But until then...
Although the Shizuoka Distillery regularly offers samples at their booths at whisky festivals throughout Japan, they don't yet sell bottles outright. Some of Japan's newer craft distilleries are blending their stuff with imported whisky, others are selling gin, others are selling canned highballs, and then others sell the new make at a significant premium. Shizuoka Distillery has only two options to get bottles at home at the moment: the Premium Bottle Selection program, or as a benefit of their private cask ownership program.
This bottle comes from the latter. So yes, I do own a cask at the Shizuoka Distillery. And since I'm not entirely sure of the destiny of all the bottles that cask will yield, this article is a tasting rather than a review. It would be silly to review my own product, even if it's a proto version.
The 2019 Shizuoka Distillery cask owner program allowed you to choose which wash still to use: a wood-fired(!) Forsyths one or the ex-Karuizawa indirect heated still. Given my tastings at the 2018 Whisky Festival in Tokyo, I went with the ex-Karuizawa still. For the 2019 private cask program, all whiskies are non-peated. However they have introduced a peated option for the 2020 private cask program.
Tasting: Shizuoka Distillery Private Cask 2019 New Make Spirit
Nose: Bright and earthy with fresh peppermint. Later we get plenty of spices alongside grapes, prunes, and pears at the end
Palate: Chewy malt, nutty with almonds and cashews, alongside some bitterness of dark chocolate
Finish: Poppy seed muffin straight out of the oven. Yes it's hot as hell, and still malty
Score: N/A since this is just a tasting (see above!), 200ml, 63.7% abv
Price paid: N/A as this was a freebie under the private cask ownership program
The 63.7% abv here could probably peel the paint off your car. Things calmed down considerably with a bit of water and brought out a fruity nose, but the palate was malty through and through.
With an octave cask, the maximum time owners are allowed to age the spirit is 5 years. I'll likely pull additional samples at 3 and 4 years to see how things are coming along. Looking forward to tracking the progress!
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.