Five of the best Asian whiskies
As the Whisky Live festival makes its Hong Kong debut, we present five great malts from Asia, as selected by Mizunara: The Library
Nikka Taketsuru 17-year-old, 43% abv
A full-bodied blend of two single malts — “a peaty one (Yoichi) and a sweeter one (Miyagikyo)”, according to Endo — that is named after Nikka’s founder, Masatka Taketsuru, who studied whisky-making in Scotland in the 1920s. “It’s not overwhelming an overwhelming spirit”, says Endo. “It’s smooth with a sweetness and subtle smokiness. It’s very round and well-balanced.” A bottle costs around US$200.
Yamazaki single malt 2015, 43% abv
Owing to its having been matured in sherry casks, this limited edition from Suntory — Japan’s first distillery, which was also founded by Taketsuru — has a rich amber gold color and a spicy, roasted flavor. Acknowledging that is has similarities with Macallan, “but spicier,” Endo says: “It’s an attempt to make a uniquely Japanese-style whisky, which means it’s very, very smooth.” A bottle costs around US$260.
Chichibu, The Peated, 2015, 62.5% abv
A smoky, cask strength single malt (“kind of like an Ardbeg”) from one of Japan’s newer distilleries. “It was bottled in 2011 so it’s very young,” says Endo. “But because of the climate, the maturation process is faster in Japan. Remarkably it doesn’t feel like a cask strength whisky. It’s well-balanced, complex and quite smooth for a peaty whisky, with a strong vanilla aroma.” A bottle costs around US$320.
Amrut, Indian Single Malt Whisky, 61.8%
A cask strength offering from another young distillery which only began releasing single malts in 2008. Amrut uses barley grown in the foothills of the Himalayas and matures its whisky in American bourbon casks at 3,000ft above sea level. “There are notes of vanilla and caramel on the nose, and the taste is solid and malty, with a finish that doesn’t linger,” says Endo. A bottle costs US$80.
Kavalan Single Cask Vinho Barrique 2015, 58.6%
Endo is a big Macallan fan, so when he says Kavalan is imitating Macallan with this drop, that’s a compliment. This whisky is matured in wine casks, which impart a reddish brown color and complex, powerful flavors. “The aroma is tropical fruit, dried mango and oats,” says Endo. “Watch out for chocolate-coated raisin on the palate.” A bottle costs around US$300.
Find out more about Mizunara: The Library by visiting the bar’s website.