“I’m lucky to have travelled widely over the years sharing Glenmorangie around the world whilst also gathering new inspiration for whisky creations, and Tokyo has always been one of my favourite places. I’m fascinated by the contradictions between its bustling streets and tranquil gardens, ancient and modern buildings, its many sensory experiences and its culture. My time there over the years made me wonder whether I could capture my experience of Tokyo, and these beautiful intricacies, in whisky form”.
Japan’s capital has long inspired Glenmorangie’s globe-trotting director of distilling and whisky creation, Dr Bill Lumsden. That’s him who said all that above, if you don’t believe me.
As do interesting casks, like Japanese mizunara oak casks. The latest Glenmorangie expression, A Tale of Tokyo, is the result of his desire to create a single malt that would explore the influence of this complex Japanese wood on the Highland distillery’s light, citrusy, and floral character.
The magic of mizunara?
Mizunara casks are not easy to come by, however, and even Dr Bill was only able to source a small number of them. The word comes from the Japanese mizu, meaning water and nara, meaning oak and it takes more than 200 years for a Mizunara tree to grow to a sufficient size. It’s also very popular in Japan, and beyond, for use in high-end furniture. It’s frankly a bit of a logistical nightmare too, with its staves being tough to shape. This makes it a pricy, leaky, tricky barrel.
But these casks are prized for the flavour they give whisky, defined by notes like sandalwood, coconut, and aromatic spice. They’re also mysterious, exotic, and are directly associated with one of the great whisky producers and markets. Mizunara writes press releases for itself.
Glenmorangie A Tale of Tokyo review
Getting the casks is one thing, using them well is another. Being so distinctive, it’s rare to see Mizunara used as anything more than a finishing cask, or to age whisky that will be blended with more conventional styles. The latter is what Dr Bill did, pairing the unique and bold flavours from the Japanese oak with Glenmorangie aged in both bourbon and sherry casks.
“I partly matured a proportion of Glenmorangie spirit in rare Japanese mizunara oak casks, which I’ve been curious to experiment with for some time. The influence of this wood is incredibly complex and unusual; it required balance and softening with Glenmorangie matured in bourbon and sherry casks, and the result is a dram as full of delicious sensory contrasts as a trip to Tokyo.”
A quick word on the label and packaging before we taste the Tokyo tale. It was made in collaboration with celebrated Japanese artist, Yamaguchi Akira, who rendered their perspective of the city’s contrasts and layers of history and culture. You’ll notice they did so adhering to Glenmorangie’s technicolour palette, and that there’s depictions of Tokyo Tower, Glenmorangie’s giraffe-high stills, lush mizunara oak trees, and even several Dr Bill figures peppered throughout.
Now we get onto the whisky itself. Glenmorangie A Tale of Tokyo is, quite simply, very pleasant. The fragrant spirit doesn’t get overwhelmed by the more perfumed notes of Mizunara and there’s plenty of nice dark fruit and rich spice notes in there too. Best of all, there’s lots of classic Glenmo citrus in there. Lovely stuff. Here’s a full tasting note:
Nose: Sandalwood, incense, dried cherries, vanilla, star anise, and that trademark Glenmorangie tangy orange note.
Palate: A silky palate reveals more notes of citrus alongside marzipan, fennel, dried fruit, white pepper, toffee apple, and a little cinnamon.
Finish: Mandarin and toasted almonds.
You can buy Glenmorangie A Tale of Tokyo from Master of Malt now. Click the link for price, volume, and availability.