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  1. #1
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    Advice for a Tasting

    Hoping some Japanese whiskey experts can help me out here. I'm doing a tasting in about a week for a law firm here in NY. Very basic: I've got a single malt, an Irish, a bourbon and a Canadian. Now, with Yamazaki Sherry Cask in the news, they want to add a Japanese whiskey, too. Very cool. Thing is, I'm on less solid ground with these. I have three choices: Yamazaki 12, Hakushu 12, or Nikka Coffey Grain.

    If you had to choose, which would it be? Remember, I'm looking for something to show off Japanese whiskey, and that is very approachable to uninformed drinkers.

    Thanks!

  2. #2
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    Re: Advice for a Tasting

    Quote Originally Posted by risenc View Post
    Hoping some Japanese whiskey experts can help me out here. I'm doing a tasting in about a week for a law firm here in NY. Very basic: I've got a single malt, an Irish, a bourbon and a Canadian. Now, with Yamazaki Sherry Cask in the news, they want to add a Japanese whiskey, too. Very cool. Thing is, I'm on less solid ground with these. I have three choices: Yamazaki 12, Hakushu 12, or Nikka Coffey Grain.

    If you had to choose, which would it be? Remember, I'm looking for something to show off Japanese whiskey, and that is very approachable to uninformed drinkers.

    Thanks!
    My personal preference from the three you mentioned is Hakushu 12. It's on the lighter end of peated whiskies, with lots of crisp green fruit flavors and a really pleasing rounded, balanced vibe. Very different from a lot of peated Scottish malts, but still fits comfortably in the family. That said, I'd probably eliminate that choice. It's on the subtle side, and probably isn't going to wow anyone on first nose or taste. I think it would be nice to choose Nikka Coffey Grain, since it's pretty different in character from Japanese Single Malt or Scotch Single Grain, and you can explain how it's related to both malt whiskey and bourbon. Then again, you might just be better off by giving them what they want with the Yamazaki 12. There's nothing wrong with Yamazaki 12, I just don't feel like it does anything for you that you can't find in scotch whisky.

    I'm already breaking your rules, but if you're open to substitutions you might consider Nikka Taketsuru 12. It's a blended "pure" malt from Yoichi and Miyagikyo distilleries, and has one of the nicest noses I have found in 12 year old whisky. It's an absolute showstopper. It needs some time to open up on the palate, but that shouldn't be an issue if you put it last in the tasting. The reason I suggest it is that while all three whiskies you asked about are excellent choices, your audience's first impression of the Taketsuru 12 is going to be that it is something a bit different and really really nice to nose.
    Eric

  3. #3
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    Re: Advice for a Tasting

    Quote Originally Posted by garbanzobean View Post
    My personal preference from the three you mentioned is Hakushu 12. It's on the lighter end of peated whiskies, with lots of crisp green fruit flavors and a really pleasing rounded, balanced vibe. Very different from a lot of peated Scottish malts, but still fits comfortably in the family. That said, I'd probably eliminate that choice. It's on the subtle side, and probably isn't going to wow anyone on first nose or taste. I think it would be nice to choose Nikka Coffey Grain, since it's pretty different in character from Japanese Single Malt or Scotch Single Grain, and you can explain how it's related to both malt whiskey and bourbon. Then again, you might just be better off by giving them what they want with the Yamazaki 12. There's nothing wrong with Yamazaki 12, I just don't feel like it does anything for you that you can't find in scotch whisky.

    I'm already breaking your rules, but if you're open to substitutions you might consider Nikka Taketsuru 12. It's a blended "pure" malt from Yoichi and Miyagikyo distilleries, and has one of the nicest noses I have found in 12 year old whisky. It's an absolute showstopper. It needs some time to open up on the palate, but that shouldn't be an issue if you put it last in the tasting. The reason I suggest it is that while all three whiskies you asked about are excellent choices, your audience's first impression of the Taketsuru 12 is going to be that it is something a bit different and really really nice to nose.
    Thanks! That's a huge help. Of the three, I personally dig the Nikka Coffey Grain the most, but like you said, it's not exactly representative. Looks like I can get the Taketsuru, so I'll go with that. Excellent advice.

  4. #4
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    Re: Advice for a Tasting

    Quote Originally Posted by risenc View Post
    Thanks! That's a huge help. Of the three, I personally dig the Nikka Coffey Grain the most, but like you said, it's not exactly representative. Looks like I can get the Taketsuru, so I'll go with that. Excellent advice.
    No problem. Hopefully I don't ruin your tasting with my pedestrian palate, though I have yet to find a Japanese whisky that I think is downright bad. On the bright side, even if the Nikka isn't the favorite of the night, you can talk all about Masataka Taketsuru. Can't get much more Japanese than a whisky named after the father of Japanese whisky. Maybe the audience will feel like you're giving them an "insider tip" on a less well known brand while everyone else is running around buying up all the $300 Yamazaki 18.

    I actually have a question for you, since you're a published author and whatnot: Have you ever heard of anyone doing a whisk(e)y cocktail tasting? I was toying with the idea of doing something like that. Basically something where you taste the whisky you'll be incorporating into the cocktail, then maybe do a few different drinks with it. Or even serving 3-4 tasting samples of whisky from different parts of the world along with representative cocktails from each region or country. There's a few different directions I could take it in, really.
    Eric

  5. #5
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    Re: Advice for a Tasting

    Quote Originally Posted by garbanzobean View Post
    No problem. Hopefully I don't ruin your tasting with my pedestrian palate, though I have yet to find a Japanese whisky that I think is downright bad. On the bright side, even if the Nikka isn't the favorite of the night, you can talk all about Masataka Taketsuru. Can't get much more Japanese than a whisky named after the father of Japanese whisky. Maybe the audience will feel like you're giving them an "insider tip" on a less well known brand while everyone else is running around buying up all the $300 Yamazaki 18.

    I actually have a question for you, since you're a published author and whatnot: Have you ever heard of anyone doing a whisk(e)y cocktail tasting? I was toying with the idea of doing something like that. Basically something where you taste the whisky you'll be incorporating into the cocktail, then maybe do a few different drinks with it. Or even serving 3-4 tasting samples of whisky from different parts of the world along with representative cocktails from each region or country. There's a few different directions I could take it in, really.
    Hmm. I'm actually not a very good source for that. I don't go to a lot of cocktail-oriented events, or move in that world at all (and in New York, it really is a world unto itself). I've seen announcements for events sponsored by whiskey brands that offer two or three cocktails alongside the whiskey itself. But those are all very promotional; the idea is not so much to explore the intricacies of the whiskey and its cocktail complements. It's a cool idea, in any case. I especially like your second idea, of exploring different styles of whiskey and what cocktails go well with them.

  6. #6
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    Re: Advice for a Tasting

    Quote Originally Posted by risenc View Post
    Hoping some Japanese whiskey experts can help me out here. I'm doing a tasting in about a week for a law firm here in NY. Very basic: I've got a single malt, an Irish, a bourbon and a Canadian. Now, with Yamazaki Sherry Cask in the news, they want to add a Japanese whiskey, too. Very cool. Thing is, I'm on less solid ground with these. I have three choices: Yamazaki 12, Hakushu 12, or Nikka Coffey Grain.

    If you had to choose, which would it be? Remember, I'm looking for something to show off Japanese whiskey, and that is very approachable to uninformed drinkers.

    Thanks!
    I know you already have a suggestion for Taketsuru 12 (which is indeed a lovely whisky) but if the Yamazaki sherry is driving the train here and you want to keep it simple you might be better off with the Yamazaki 12. It is a single malt which is a term a group of relative newbies might be more familiar with and of course it at least shares the same name as the newly crowned holy grail whisky of the year. The whisky is much more like a Speyside with sweetness, fruit notes and little or no peat. It is probably a bit sweeter than Taketsuru which I do think is a bit more balanced. Will just kind of depend on what you think the crowd is likely to like. Taketsuru 12 has little or no peat as well to my taste. Yamazaki 12 is probably the first Japanese single malt to be readily available in the US.
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  7. #7
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    Re: Advice for a Tasting

    Quote Originally Posted by tanstaafl2 View Post
    I know you already have a suggestion for Taketsuru 12 (which is indeed a lovely whisky) but if the Yamazaki sherry is driving the train here and you want to keep it simple you might be better off with the Yamazaki 12. It is a single malt which is a term a group of relative newbies might be more familiar with and of course it at least shares the same name as the newly crowned holy grail whisky of the year. The whisky is much more like a Speyside with sweetness, fruit notes and little or no peat. It is probably a bit sweeter than Taketsuru which I do think is a bit more balanced. Will just kind of depend on what you think the crowd is likely to like. Taketsuru 12 has little or no peat as well to my taste. Yamazaki 12 is probably the first Japanese single malt to be readily available in the US.
    Yeah, I struggled a bit with recommending Taketsuru 12 over Yamazaki 12. There's something to be said for giving the people what they want. But I think the Taketsuru is far and away a superior whisky, and is more representative of the Japanese style than Yamazaki 12, single malt or no. Given how much in-house blending goes on in Japan, I would almost argue that a pure malt is MORE representative of Japanese whisky as a whole than a single malt, but I could be biased. Regardless, the Taketsuru name and provenance make for an interesting conversation piece, and it's hard to get around that nose.

    Like I said before, you don't really have a loser to pick from in that crowd. It seems like Yamazaki is the "easy" right answer, but that is really going to depend on what scotch whisky you put it up against. If it's a sweeter speysider, it's going to be really hard not to draw direct comparisons.
    Eric

  8. #8
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    Re: Advice for a Tasting

    Quote Originally Posted by garbanzobean View Post
    Yeah, I struggled a bit with recommending Taketsuru 12 over Yamazaki 12. There's something to be said for giving the people what they want. But I think the Taketsuru is far and away a superior whisky, and is more representative of the Japanese style than Yamazaki 12, single malt or no. Given how much in-house blending goes on in Japan, I would almost argue that a pure malt is MORE representative of Japanese whisky as a whole than a single malt, but I could be biased. Regardless, the Taketsuru name and provenance make for an interesting conversation piece, and it's hard to get around that nose.

    Like I said before, you don't really have a loser to pick from in that crowd. It seems like Yamazaki is the "easy" right answer, but that is really going to depend on what scotch whisky you put it up against. If it's a sweeter speysider, it's going to be really hard not to draw direct comparisons.
    The Scotch in the pairing is Bowmore 12 -- a basic, not-too-Islay Islay. Sometimes, if I have room, I include something from the Balvenie, as a comparison. So having something Speyside-ish is a good idea.

  9. #9
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    Re: Advice for a Tasting

    E & B have it well covered. Of your list, Hakushu wins hands down for me & I agree that Taketsuru is a great not-on-your-list choice (I do prefer Nikka over Suntory in general though).

    Hibiki is also an easy drinker if you're going to start going down the road to blends (but again, I prefer Taketsuru to
    Hibiki).

    I don't think the Yamasaki 12 will be a good reference of the Yamasaki Sherry Cask flavor profile so giving them what they want won't really be giving them what they want.
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  10. #10
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    Re: Advice for a Tasting

    I agree with Johnny, Eric and the other commenters that choosing something middle of the road Japanese is a good start to open peoples horizons and let them experience the nuances of Japanese Malts and the distinct aging characteristics

 

 

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