The US Debut Of An Upstart Japanese Whisky Reported Rich Report
The Bourbon Cask Reserve from Asaka Distillery impresses our whiskey critic.
As anyone familiar with the world of aged distilled spirits knows, Japanese whiskey has gone completely bonkers in recent years. A bottle of Yamazaki 12 produced by Japanese whiskey giant Suntory used to cost around $50 at your local liquor store; now you'd have to look online to find one that costs less than three times as much. Given the discontinuation of other age statements, be prepared to spend at least a grand on blends such as Hibiki 21.
Besides Nikka, there are also other major Japanese distilleries whose whiskey is generally cheaper, but is still very high quality, although age statements are no longer included in most bottles. This may be the result of a number of factors, including unexpectedly outpacing supply and opportunism. For fans of Japanese whiskey, the Asaka distillery in Fukushima offers Bourbon Reserve Cask as a new release.
There has been a whiskey license for the company behind this distillery since the 1940s, but it was only reconstructed in 2016 so it has only been operating for a few years now. World whiskies are a relatively new designation that indicates the blend contains whiskeys from outside of Japan. Asaka produces a few world whiskies, a relatively recent designation. It is a common practice, but it has only been within the past few years that distilleries have come to terms with what is actually a genuine Japanese whiskey distilled and matured in Japan as opposed to a world whiskey. This is the first Asaka release to be available in the US, and Bourbon Reserve Cask falls into the latter category.
This 61 percent cask strength sake is bottled at a cask strength of 61 percent ABV, or "genshu" as it is called on the label. Genshu is an unfiltered sake term that's usually used to describe sake without filters. From the two barrels used for this release, only 480 bottles were produced, all non-chill filtered.
Upon sipping, you will immediately feel the high proof and a viscous mouthfeel, as orange and honey notes linger on your tongue. A decently spicy finish is followed by notes of cinnamon and baked apple, along with mango, pineapple, vanilla custard and lemon zest.
Although the flavor profile is not as delicate as that of Hakushu or Yamazaki with core age statements, it adds a level of complexity to the taste that is not necessarily negative. With only 480 bottles available domestically, this blend won't compete with Suntory Toki, an easily available blend. Since Asaka does not have the same name recognition as those other Japanese whiskies, it may become even harder to find if you do not look out for it and buy it when you see it.