Among the vast variety of new Japanese whiskies that have flooded the market the past few years is Kaiyō Whisky. The immediate question in my mind when I see one of these bottles is: “But is it really Japanese whisky?” (For more discussion of fake Japanese whisky, click the link.)
The answer, fortunately, with Kaiyō Whisky is: Yes, it’s legit. You have to do a lot of digging on the internet and take everything you find with a grain (or perhaps the whole shaker?) of salt. But I’m reassured that Kaiyō is authentic Japanese whisky.
The funny part is, the brand itself doesn’t proclaim their products as “Japanese Whisky.” I appreciate their extra efforts towards providing candor with their labeling, even if the brand is not otherwise especially transparent.
Kaiyō is reportedly “teaspooned” whisky from some Japanese supplier(s) that the company bought as unaged spirit. (If you want to learn more about “teaspooning,” which is common in the Scottish whisky industry, read this.) The people behind Kaiyō then blend and barrel the whisky, notably in Mizunara (Japanese oak) casks, among others. The barrels are then put on a boat and sent on a three-month trip to rock and sway the whisky, thus hyper-charging the aging process.
If that all sounds a little silly and overcomplicated…I agree! So let’s get to the whisky.
Kaiyō’s “Japanese Mizunara Oak Whisky” is the company’s flagship bottling.
It’s definitely a young whisky, slightly fruity and sweet to start, before turning dryer with some peppery spice and tea-like flavor.
There is more wood influence than you might expect, although it’s a bit rough, even a touch smoky. I’m not sure that aspect of it is a positive.
Kaiyō Japanese Mizunara Oak Whisky is an interesting whisky, and a decent one. I would like to see how it tastes after it has more time in the barrel to mellow some of the flavors from the wood and to add more complexity. As it stands, it’s a bit simple and unbalanced. For an Asian spirit especially, it could use some more Zen.
Like most new Japanese whiskies on the market, this one isn’t cheap, when you consider how young a whisky you’re buying. Although even at $60, it can look reasonable compared to many of the alternatives. Overall, I say it’s definitely worth a try.