Ichiro's Malt The Final Vintage Of Hanya

Ichiro’s Malt: The Final Vintage Of Hanya (Japanese Single Malt Whisky: 10 Year: 59% ABV)

Visual: Deep gold.

Viscosity: Initial fast streaks then thin slow streaks follow.

Nose: Big, very big. Chocolate fudge and honey. Praline. Crushed peanuts. Pencil shavings. Mild orange peel. Mild coffee. Water expands with white grape and smoke. More water makes for a more wood character.

Body: Very warming. Milky coffee. Burns if held but not initially. Charred oak. Bitter. Slicker with water – sour white grapes. White chocolate. Dried beef. Sweeter grapes and beefier as more water goes in. Still very viscous with water.

Finish: Dry oak. Water adds dry beef slice notes. Malt chocolate. More water adds pepper and spice racks, grapes and bitter cocoa.

Conclusion: I’m being very careful with this one, trying a little slice of history. I knew that the whisky would be harsh neat – is is 59% – but I still needed to try just a little sip like that, to do otherwise would feel like a waste. After my little mouth numbing indulgence I then had to walk the thin line between adding enough water to get it in the perfect state before I had finished it, and the fear of drowning the whisky.

The aroma, as the item that is most easily examined without consuming, therefore gives the best insight into what we have here. It is deep, thick and a mix between praline chocolate and fudge. When water enters the equation it remains thick, but now with viscous grapes freshening it without diminishing the weight of character. In all things it feels big, yet somehow not raw.

Even as I enter the main whisky, sipping upon the liquid I find one that becomes burning if held too long, and numbing in the finish, one that needs water, but despite that, even neat there is a smoothness to it. It is numbing, but not harsh in raw alcohol character. Water takes it from this deep, heavy, coffee touched beast to a lighter, yet still peat or beef touched, grape sweet style. The balance swaying between those depending on water and there is plenty of room to find your balance.

On the once through I gave it I find that I feel unprepared to give a complete verdict. I can feel that there is a lot of complexity to this- I have seen a lot of depth already and I have feeling that there is more to find. It makes full use of its high abv.

Purely based on what I have experienced I am happy to say that even with water this is a dark and almost bitter whisky. It allows you to find your level with the grape contrast but the main core is that bitterness, chocolate and nuts. If somehow you are lucky enough to try this, please do so.

Many thanks again to Chris of Independent Spirit for giving me this chance.

Background: Again- many, many thanks to Chris from Independent Spirit for this one. He got a small amount of this, the final vintage from the now closed Hanya distillery, and gave me some of that to sample. Distilled 2000 for bottling 2010 by my quick bit of internet research. With it being a necessarily small, yet awesome, sample my notes are not as long pondered as usual, but I do my best. To do any less in this situation would be a crime. I needed appropriately epic music for this, something elegant and yet bombastic. So I listened to Napalm Death. It is the only way. The container in the photo is not the original container. I took a photo of the original at Independent Spirit with a cheap phone camera, but as you can see below, I managed to get pretty much everything but the whisky in focus.

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