Hakushu Bourbon

Hakushu: Bourbon Barrel (Japanese Single Malt Whisky: No age Statement: 48.2% ABV)

Visual: Yellowed gold.

Viscosity: Quite fast thick steaks.

Nose: Apples. Toffee. Strong alcohol. Dessert pastry. Pears. Grain fields. Water mutes to cooked apples.

Body: Pear drops. Lime. Strong alcohol feel rises. Apple crumble. Toffee and caramel. Oak. Water soothes the fire. Also bigger pear and sweet caramel with water, still some noticeable alcohol. More water makes smoother toffee and no fire.

Finish: Oak. Vanilla. Cream. Toffee apple. Becomes fruity with water, the pear holding out from the body now. More toffee and less oak. Salted toffee and lots of it come out with more water.

Conclusion:  Considering my prior experience with Hakushu, that of a very smooth, light and very green fruit dominated whisky, this bourbon barrel expression proved to be an interesting twist. The twelve year was very nice, and led me to try this first a few weeks back.  The first experience was of it being a bit rough and fiery. However the intervening weeks since I opened the bottle seemed to have helped, and as I sit to review the whisky it seems to be a subtly different beast.

Now, neat it still has too much damn burn, but the pear drop flavour that I associated with the twelve year comes out nicely, braced by an unsubtle toffee bourbon sweetness. The aroma is very crisp sweet dessert, very well done, but for the body you can’t take too long appreciating it neat before it becomes overpowered by the fire.

So, we quickly mover onto the water play, and unfortunately even a little bit kills the aroma, however it also helps sooth the fire and makes the toffee influence much more graceful and less brash.

Even more water added makes the fire vanish and leaves a smooth toffee front with the pear and apple now backing rather than leading the flavours. Here the whisky is more classy, though not as much as the 12 year. Though interesting it seems the pure bourbon influence is too brash for such a subtle graceful whisky.

This still has many of the lovely elements, especially the great fruitiness, but it seems the bourbon influence is not the best match. In fact, this is probably the purest I have ever seen a bourbon flavour come through in a whisky a fact that is interesting to but to the whisky’s best advantage.

So, it has a good base, especially with water. It is a bit oil and water in how the flavours mix, in that both the fruit and the bourbon are nice, but they do not mix as much as stand out as two distinct elements in the whisky.

Rough in places but the quality still shines through despite that.

Background: While I hadn’t picked up any whisky while I was in Japan, due to high prices, I am a big fan of their single malts. I recently tried their 12 year Hakushu which was very pleasant, and since I had been give a gift voucher a while back by Paul, I decided to use it at the tasting rooms to pick up a bottle of this expression, aged solely in bourbon casks. It’s a limited run expression best I know, and since Hakushu tends to have lighter fruitier flavours I was interested to see what a pure bourbon take on it would be like.