Review: Single Malt Nagahama Bourbon Cask #0145

Tonight we sit down with a bottle from Japan’s smallest craft whisky distillery: the Nagahama Distillery. The distillery’s single malt releases thus far have all also been single cask releases, and this one is no exception.

Nagahama Distillery sits on the shore of Lake Biwa, Japan’s largest lake, in Shiga prefecture. It’s an extension of Nagahama Roman Beer’s brewery that occupies the same site. In fact, the company’s whisky operation and beer operation are one in the same up to fermentation.

The distillery is well-known known for their world-blend Amahagan series, but their single malt Japanese whisky is a different affair: one fermentation yields one distillation batch that yields one cask, which is all released at cask-strength, single cask.

And considering the distillery’s small size, they’re fairly adventurous. One of the latest releases for example has a mashbill of malt and rye. Their wood program features some good variety like Islay quarter casks, Bordeaux, Oloroso sherry, Bourbon, and more. They’re also a pioneer for Japanese whisky with the first ever stock swap bottles released for the category.

The bottle we’re drinking today is Bourbon Cask #0145, and it’s another gift bottle I acquired (mostly) for free via the Furusato Nozei scheme. It was distilled on February 28, 2018, then bottled March 9, 2021, making it almost exactly 3 years matured. Let’s give it a try.

Review: Single Malt Nagahama Bourbon Cask #0145

Nose: Heavy oak vanillins and a nice mellow malt. A very classical Bourbon cask nose. Light honey and sweetness.

Palate: Velvety and warm with fresh pear, followed by oaky notes. Quite heavy on the malt here too. The chocolate returns, this time darker with more bitter, woody cacao.

Finish: Lasting oakiness and some lingering pepper.

Score: B

Price paid: This bottle was effectively free thanks to the Furusato Nozei program. 500ml, 59.7% abv.

Perhaps Nagahama allocated their least exciting casks to the program, because this one is a pretty run-of-the-mill Bourbon cask release. It’s definitely not bad, and it should be a hit with the oak/malt purist crowd. Fine by me.

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