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Master of Malt Blog

Tag: Yoichi

New Arrival of the Week: Yoichi Apple Brandy Cask

Just landed at MoM, a Japanese single malt whisky from Yoichi distillery part-aged in an apple brandy cask. It celebrates the 100th anniversary of the marriage of Nikka’s founder Masataka…

Just landed at MoM, a Japanese single malt whisky from Yoichi distillery part-aged in an apple brandy cask. It celebrates the 100th anniversary of the marriage of Nikka’s founder Masataka Taketsuru and Rita Cowan, and pays tribute to the early days of the company. To find out more, read on…

At Yoichi, the distillery workers  still use a technique that has long since disappeared in Scotland: coal-fired stills. They are very hard to manage, it’s a skilled job feeding the flames and a moment’s negligence can burn the still. Gas is much more controllable which is why it’s taken over in Scotch whisky. But the team at Yoichi think it’s worth it, producing rich roasty flavours in the new make.

The happy couple: Masataka Taketsuru and Rita Cowan

The distillery was built in 1934 by Masataka Taketsuru. It’s on the island of Hokkaido. Damp and cold, apparently it reminded him of Campbeltown where he had worked at Hazelburn and lived with his Scottish wife Rita. Though the winters are very cold, summers are hot so casks mature very differently to the more steady climate of Scotland. Hokkaido is also rich in fresh water and peat (though the onsite maltings are no longer used and Yoichi buys in most of  its malt from Scotland). At first the distillery had only one still which was used for both wash and spirit but it expanded in 1966 and now has six. A much more modern distillery at Miyagikyo, in the north eastern part of Japan’s main island Honshu, was set up in 1969. A wide variety of whiskies are made here in pot and continuous stills including a Coffey malt whisky, something that would not be allowed in Scotland. 

It’s not just the coal-fired stills, Yoichi is traditional in other ways. Ferments, usually with a brewers yeast, are long, up to five days and the distillery uses worm tub condensers. These combined with steeply-sloping lyne arms on the stills, resulting in less copper contact, create a heavy oily spirit. The classic Yoichi taste combines the heavy and smoky with a fruity lift. In common with most Japanese distilleries, a wide variety of spirits are made in the one distillery by playing with the wort (it’s usually clear but they do make occasional batches with cloudy), yeasts, peat, cut points etc. And that’s before you get onto the wide variety of oak at the blender’s command.

Our new arrival celebrates the 100th anniversary, on 8 January 1920, of the marriage between Masataka Taketsuru and Rita Cowan which did more than join two people together but linked Japan and Scotland together in shared love of whisky. Originally he worked for Suntory on his return for Japan. When he set up on his own in 1934, his main business wasn’t just whisky. Hokkaido is famous for its apples and so he also made fruit juice. In fact the original name of  the company was Dai Nippon Kaju: the Great Japanese Juice Company, which was later abbreviated in the 1950s to Nikka.

So this new release also pays homage to the early days of Nikka by being part-aged in a cask that formerly held apple brandy. The primary ageing took place largely in new American oak plus some ex-sherry casks. Like all Yoichi releases, it’s a blend of different styles produced at this one distillery. It’s bottled at 47% and released with no age statement. It’s a fitting tribute to the marriage that founded Japanese whisky.

But that’s not all, in addition to this special Yoichi (click here to buy), Nikka has also released a special apple brandy cask single malt from Miyagikyo and, naturally, it’s also available (here) from Master of Malt. 

Tasting notes from the Chaps at Master of Malt:

Nose: Baked apples initially and then the peat comes in strongly with wood fires, Havana cigars and salty seaside notes. It’s rich and full-flavoured.

Palate: Deliciously fruity, apple pie and pears, with smoky lingering in the background, grassy and aromatic notes come in. The texture is oily and full.

Finish: Citrus fruits combine with dates and other dried fruits with spicy liquorice, vanilla, roasted nuts and toasted brioche. Long and harmonious.

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Q&A: Brian Ashcraft, author of Japanese Whisky: The Ultimate Guide to the World’s Most Desirable Spirit

Fancy finding out about Japanese whisky but don’t know where to start? ‘Japanese Whisky: The Ultimate Guide to the World’s Most Desirable Spirit’ certainly sounds like a good place to…

Fancy finding out about Japanese whisky but don’t know where to start? ‘Japanese Whisky: The Ultimate Guide to the World’s Most Desirable Spirit’ certainly sounds like a good place to start. We chat to the author, Brian Ashcraft…

On the blog today we are delighted to have Brian Ashcraft, author of a beautiful book called Japanese Whisky: The Ultimate Guide to the World’s Most Desirable Spirit. It’s a brilliant introduction to a complicated subject and, just to make your life even easier, at the end Brian has picked his favourite Japanese whiskies from the Master of Malt range.

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Is this the world’s biggest Japanese whisky tasting?

Earlier this month, Mayfair bar Sexy Fish opened all 358 bottles in its Japanese whisky collection, from gorgeous everyday expressions to some of the world’s rarest bottlings. We hear from…

Earlier this month, Mayfair bar Sexy Fish opened all 358 bottles in its Japanese whisky collection, from gorgeous everyday expressions to some of the world’s rarest bottlings. We hear from bars director Xavier Landais on how and why he undertook such an epic task, and what it’s like to taste such an incredible array of whiskies…

Japanese whisky is having more than just a moment. Earlier this year, a Yamazaki 50-year-old single malt bottling set a new auction world record, fetching almost £210,000 in Hong Kong. It’s become much harder for drinkers to get their mitts on even the most accessible expressions, especially after a 2015 decision from Nikka to discontinue all its age statement whiskies in most markets. With all this demand, we were intrigued by news that fancy London bar Sexy Fish had opened its entire stock of Japanese whisky bottlings – all 358 of them.

With some of these bottlings experiencing exceptional demand on the secondary market, hitting those lofty auction prices and stirring up all kinds of demand, why open the whole lot? Here, Xavier Landais, bars director at Caprice Holdings (parent of Sexy Fish), explains how a passion for truly understanding the Japanese whisky category and a desire to counter that investment culture informed the decision…

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Whisky Advent Day 2: Yoichi/Miyagikyo Single Malts

It’s Day 2 of Drinks by the Dram’s #WhiskyAdvent and once again we get to open a window of the excellent Whisky Advent Calendar to see what delights lay within……

Yoichi Miyagikyo Whisky Advent

It’s Day 2 of Drinks by the Dram’s #WhiskyAdvent and once again we get to open a window of the excellent Whisky Advent Calendar to see what delights lay within…

Starting with Speyside single malt Scotch yesterday, the second dram takes us all the way to Japan with Nikka’s Yoichi Non Age! If you’re now staring at your dram and thinking to yourself “Hey, hold on, mine says Miyagikyo Non Age”, then I believe we can explain… You see, these advent calendars have been so unbelievably popular this year, with sales surpassing all forecasts, that there are a very small number of days where not everybody could have the exact same dram. Indeed, we’ve been careful to ensure that the contents/spoilers of all the respective calendars were always up to date on the product pages of our site to reflect where this may happen. What we have today then are two single malts from Nikka’s two malt whisky distilleries, set up by the great Masataka Taketsuru (whose own story has recently reached a new generation in his native Japan thanks to the popular television serial Massan).

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Mezan Rum

We recently got the full range of Mezan rums in, and we’re very excited about them. You see, it’s rum as it should be, rum approached in much the same…

We recently got the full range of Mezan rums in, and we’re very excited about them. You see, it’s rum as it should be, rum approached in much the same way a malt lover looks at whisky; vintages, distilleries, and all non-chillfiltered and unadulterated.

Let’s start out with the Grenada Westerhall 1998. It’s much like a Lowland whisky, in that it offers up that light, delicate and elegant flavour profile we’ve come to love from distilleries like Rosebank and Glenkinchie… It’s utterly beguiling. The distillery itself is based on a sugar estate which has been family-owned for three centuries, and during that time it produced both sugar and rum, though it didn’t bottle its own product until 1978. The rum, made in a column still, is known for its light character, and is much less smoky than its counterparts in Jamaica or Guyana (which we’ll discuss shortly).

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Bourbon and American Whiskey

The American whiskey fraternity is enjoying the burgeoning success and ever-increasing popularity of a thing called craft-distilling. There’s always been something intrinsically exciting that surrounds artisan food and drink, and…

 Small Batch Bourbon

The American whiskey fraternity is enjoying the burgeoning success and ever-increasing popularity of a thing called craft-distilling. There’s always been something intrinsically exciting that surrounds artisan food and drink, and whiskey is no exception. In fact, the spirits industry is abuzz with new releases of wonderfully packaged and gloriously quaint bourbons and other American whiskeys and we thought we’d throw in our two cents. You see, whiskey really is a spirit of provenance and it requires great attention to detail. You simply can’t go about mass-producing the stuff without due care and diligence, and that’s exactly what the new breed of craft distillers are tapping into, and they’re creating some of America’s best exports.

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Whisky Samples

The Next Batch of Whisky Samples The sun is shining, the sky is blue and the birds are just about to start getting on our nerves. But times are good,…

 Sample of Whisky The Next Batch of Whisky Samples

The sun is shining, the sky is blue and the birds are just about to start getting on our nerves. But times are good, and after launching Drinks by the Dram – our whisky sample service – the Master of Malt offices have become organized chaos.

The samples are flying off the shelves and we’ve been flooded with emails and phone calls from you all, telling us how much you like them.

We’ve made a solemn pledge to keep adding loads and loads of new samples to the site every day, so this morning we gathered around the board table (sat in a huddle on the lawn) and came up with the day’s batch of whiskies to “dram” (turn into samples). 

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Yummers-zaki

With so many amazing Japanese whiskies on the market we thought we’d review one of our favourites – the Yamazaki 18 Year Old, a whisky from the more thickly sherried,…

With so many amazing Japanese whiskies on the market we thought we’d review one of our favourites – the Yamazaki 18 Year Old, a whisky from the more thickly sherried, savoury school of Japanese malts.

A little about the distillery…

Yamazaki was Japan’s first whisky distillery and it was built by Suntory’s founder, Shinjiro Torii, in 1923. In Japan there are only two major players in whisky: Suntory and Nikka. Between them they control almost every distillery in the country.

Because of this there is no trading of malt and grain whisky between companies (as is the practice in Scotland’s whisky blending industry). Distilleries must be as self-contained as possible, so Yamazaki houses a whopping 12 stills of different type and configuration, allowing the distillery to produce a range of whiskies.

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