Asian Whisky tasting – Thursday, March 17

Hunter Sullivan

Traditionally St. Patrick’s Day merits an invoking of our true Irish persona with most venues donning the stereotypical Irish regalia for our momentary patriotism and offering a slew of Irish themed drinks to make anyone turn green (be it from the food colouring or the cheap whiskey). But, if you were to come into the Wine Market on that rowdy evening you would not be able to find clover nor leprechaun upon our walls. We felt it high time we cheated the tradition by trying something new. Turning the spotlight to a different land half way around the world, a new focus, not with intentions of usurping the day’s theme, but as a refresher from our recurrent run ins with Jameson and his pals.

Before each of our avante garde taster gathered for the evening was a setting of seven Asian whiskies winking in the low light, a placid golden treasure. Asian whisky has captivated the world in the last few years, doffing the crown of the old King and heralding a new age of spirit appreciation where even stodgy purists have a hard time ignoring the march of progress. With the numbers of whisky enthusiasts growing by the day innovation and new experience come at a premium as we constantly chase the dragon for the next big taste. Asian producers are quick to trend offering a wide variety of unique and interesting experiences ranging from the smallest of craft distillers to the largest of conglomerate companies. For this event we chose a variety of the most prolific and representative of Asian whiskies to showcase the many varying styles being produced.

Hibiki Harmony
This release just recently won the Japanese whisky award from Malt Advocate, not to anyone’s shock. An expression, as the name implies, of elegance and subtlety with silky natures easing us into the theme of the night. Grain sweetness mingles with the heavy malt presence brightening the nose throwing pieces of orange peel, toffee and orchard fruits. Taste to match, and as much as I am reproach to say, smooth as I’ll get out.  -  $105.99

Nikka Coffey Grain
Produced from the Coffey stills at Nikka distillers this whisky is made up of mostly corn making it almost more relatable to bourbon than to scotch. Don’t be fooled though, it would be a mistake to allude this whisky to bourbon anymore than I already have in passing note. A sweet treat emanates from the glass of marzipan and pecan pie drizzled with butterscotch muddled into a yuzu orange with lemon zest garnish. The taste is dessert with a honed edge aimed right at the centre of the tongue.  -  $89.99

Kavalan Solist Bourbon
Produced at the preeminent Taiwanese single malt distiller, this single bourbon barrel expression shows off the distilleries prowess with a barrel and what only a few years in Taiwan can do to a whisky. It can only be described as magical. Huge vanilla right of the bat, fondant and unsalted trail mix on a hike in spring with flowers blooming all around. Tasting brings the power of cask strength whisky to light lifting the heavier character of the nose to a place of balance integrating invigorating alcohol with sweetness.  -  $137.99

Mars Revival 2011
Craft junkies looking for a quirky spirit with a ton of pep can find it here under the name of Mars Shinshu. The Revival is an expression of oddity, not so dissimilar to walking out onto a swimming pool deck lined by bee hives while you invigorate your senses with a bottle of iodine, and it doesn’t stop there. Tasting brings the sea to your feet during the brewing of a storm, brine sticking to your face while you slurp down an acidic, kiwi and melon cocktail.  -  $194.99

Amrut Bangalore
Canadian market only single cask Amrut finished in Pedro Ximinez barrels, could we ask for more from Amrut? The fine folks over in Bangladesh have concocted a delightful release for the North American market showing off a decadent sherry cask that beautifully compliments their rich malt characteristics. Even when you open the bottle sultanas spill over the lip, ginger and honey garlic sauces, dried apricots and a swirl of marmalade concoct a marvellous display. Tasting brings about angel food cake, light and fluffy to start soon bedecked with heavy fruit syrups adding a viscosity akin to IHOP pancake garnish.  -  $115.99

Kavalan Solist Sherry
When in doubt, put it in a sherry cask. Inevitably a distiller will come across bad stock, usually the result of a bad barrel or potentially bad spirit. When this happens, Spanish oak (aka sherry casks) is an easy way out of the predicament due to the rich flavours capable of masking off notes locked inside the barrels pores. Though this philosophy probably could hold for most distillers, I would gander Kavalan would scoff at the idea where sherry is merely the accoutrement to the main attraction. The wonderful malt grandstands the sherry while taking the back seat, humbly acknowledging its hand in the final product. Dark fruits domineer the nose, dates, drunken figs, burnt molasses, all shoulder to shoulder in a sultry, velour bar. Tasting takes you away to a far away island where the only food is dried, dark fruits. Exasperated for something else to slake your palate a bowl of tootsie rolls and liquorice candies is proffered to you by a man with a thick, black cigar between his teeth. What a ride!  -  $161.99

Amrut Peated Cask Strength
I found this whisky hugely entertaining. The nose is a trifle, almost abyssal with peat coals in their waning state, flickering in the hearth from a fire the night before. These faint wisps are accompanied by a guard of the usual vanillas, herbaceous gardens and a perfumed nature that rivals the sweetness. But to taste, that is where the fireworks begin as if on time delay. First a fizzle of pork cracklings, then a poof of gun powder, explosion of sawdust and woodshops followed by a blast of withering peat integrated to the smoke lingering in the sky. The sweet savoury notions of this glass are remarkable and so well put together with little to be wanted for from this delightful peated spirit.  -  $102.49

Favourites of the night:

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