Category: Mead and Madness

Suntory: Yamazaki Aged Umeshuu (Japan: Umeshuu: 17% ABV)

Visual: Clear gold.

Nose: Sweet plum and figgy pudding. Golden syrup. Marzipan and toasted marshmallow.

Body: Thick and syrupy. Vanilla toffee and golden syrup. Honey. Plums. Mild whisky notes. Treacle. Fig rolls. Toasted teacakes.

Finish: Plums. Toasted teacakes. Golden syrup. Marshmallows and white chocolate. Fig rolls. Raspberry yogurt. Blended whisky air. Cherries to glacier cherries.

Conclusion: Ok, I’m split on how to describe it- as there is not a huge amount of whiskyesque notes about this – but they do definitely influence the proceedings. Best thing I can say, is that if you are looking to grab this for the Yamazaki then I would say look elsewhere- even if actual Yamazaki is stupidly expensive at the moment – however if you are an Umeshuu fan who also happens to like a bit of whisky then the time in the oak, and the addition of a touch of whisky has definitely given this a different twist.

The base comes out as a slightly drier take on an Umeshuu – still quite syrupy and very thick with sweet honey and golden syrup notes but less overwhelming with a drier, toasted teacake backing note that takes this notoriously sickly drink and makes it a bit easier to drink and a touch more complex with the savoury contrast.

The oak ageing does seem to add similar to what I would expect from bourbon cask ageing for whisky – marshmallows, toasted notes, vanilla toffee and white chocolate. Nice, soft, sweet rounding notes that actually soften the more raw artificial sweetness of some umeshuus. Others I have spoken to have noticed a sherry influence, but for me that seems to tie more closely to the base umeshuu – as always I could be wrong.

So, all this way in and I’ve not mentioned the actual plums yet, whatsupwiththat right? That is a fairly big part of a plum liqueur. Well, while it takes a few sips to show mid body, it is instantly there top and tail – lots of plums, figs and other varied dark fruits in general. Then as you get acclimatised to the sweetness it shows mid body as well. The oddest note’s a raspberry yogurt thickness that actually reminds me of Yamzaki 12, but I could just be being easily influenced by knowing the drink’s backstory.

I’m far from a Umeshuu expert, but this sits just on the edge of the right side of too sickly and has a good amount of range to really enjoy, more than I associate with my other experiences with this style of drink. Sweet plums over toasted texture dryness with whisky high notes makes an altogether good experience by me.

Background: This is something brought back from Honk Kong after I saw it in the airport’s duty free. Glad I did – looks like this doesn’t have an official release in the UK and import prices are insane. At the airport it came in at around 35 quid (give or take depending on exchange rate) which was much more reasonable. Anyway, what is it? Something that turns up very rarely on this blog – Umeshuu aka plum liqueur. I only rarely do notes on similar things, but this has a special twist that makes it, maybe, just about applicable for the blog. The drink has been aged in toasted ex Yamazaki whisky casks, and mixed with some Yamazaki that had been aged in Umeshuu casks, to make for a very incestuous drink relationship. Ok, yeah, I don’t normally do whisky liqueurs either- I’m mainly do this one for my own enjoyment. Anyway, I’m guessing this is being made as a gimmick release to let them get as many releases out of their limited stock. Yamazaki is highly in demand and a lot is being held back for aged releases so current releases are very tight. Well, it worked, I bought one.


Wine Cellar

What the hell? Wine?

So, this one wee alcohol aphorist decided to go outside his personal safe spot and, when invited by a friend, went along to a wine tasting in Bristol. Now beer and whisky are still my drinks of choice, but I thought some of you may be amused by my initial blunderings through attempting to do notes on wine. Due to the nature of the event, almost a quick fire of wines, my notes are quick jotted rather than the usual detail expected. Feel free to be amused at my ignorance here.

Champagne and Sparkling:

Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG Brut Millesimato 2013: 11% ABV

Light, fruity. Apple crumble. Fizzy. Lychee. Sweet cider. : – This I probably felt was the weakest of the day. It felt a bit like cheap cider to me and didn’t seem to have much body going for it.

Averys Cava Brut NV: 11.5% ABV

Musky, sour grapes. Gooseberry. Lychee. Custard touch. Slightly thick mouthfeel. :-Found this one ok, a bit heavier. Seemed an ok one to me.

Chateau De L’Aulee Cremant de Loire Brut NV: 12.5% ABV

Quite bready, brown bread. Apples and apple crumble. Light vanilla back. :- This seemed to me to be what the Valdobbiadene wanted to be. It has the same light apple crumble flavours but the bready body gives it a much better feel and was the first of this set I really could enjoy.

Ravissement des Vignes Blanc de Blancs Champagne 1996: 12.5% ABV

Cake sponge. Yeastie in a Belgian blond mixed with lambic style. Apricot. Definite Belgian blond beer flavours. :- Yeah, I am fairly sure most wine experts would use different terms than I did. At 60 quid a bottle this was the most expensive of the day and. Well, interesting. It didn’t taste like anything else that day. Very yeastie, very blond beer. Very fascinating, but I will admit I would just go for a good Belgian Blond at much cheaper price for the same experience.


Chateau Baret Blanc Pessac Leognan 2011: 13.5% ABV

Vanilla. Crème brulee. Caramel. Smooth. Toffee. Sour grapes. Vanilla. Apples.:- This was a nice opener for the set. Nicely matches sweetness and acidic sour character.

Chateau Fournas Bernadotte Haut Medoc 2009 13.5% ABV

Cherries and blackcurrant. Toffee. Strawberry. Tannins. Soft sponge. Light acidity. Dry. :- Nice enough indeed – felt a bit dry on the body to deliver what the aroma promised, but enjoyable nonetheless.

Chateau Haut Daugay St Emilion Grand Cru 2007: 13.5% ABV

Soft red grapes. A Soft blackcurrant. Not heavy at all, very easy drinking. Fruit lightly delivered. :- Very easy going, I was mixed on this one. Went down very easily, but I had been spoiled by the bigger flavours of other wines. Probably shows itself more in a full glass or bottle than in a sample at a guess.

Les Carmes de Rieussec Sauternes 2012: 13.5% ABV

Floral. Citrus. Fresh. Pineapple and kiwi. Sweet – marzipan and dried apricot. Lime syrup. Lychee: – Sauternes! I recognise that from some whisky finishes! A dessert wine I believe. Pretty close to a smooth barley wine in character, and a more familiar experience for me. Could see this after a less sweet styled cheesecake. Very nice.


Wines of Spain

Pazo do Mar Expression Albarino Ribeiro 2013: 13% ABV

Apricot. Sweet. Vanilla. Bready. Gose. Dried apricot. Tannins? : – This one didn’t quite grab me, possible the gose style character which I am only just getting used to in beer coming out in wine shook me.

Bodegas Castano Hecula Yecla 2013: 14% ABV

Raspberries in cream. Blackcurrant. Jammy then dry. Earthy. :- Found this one a game of two halves, very fresh and fruity up front, very dry and earthy at the back. Nice, but I preferred the front half I think.

Sonorio de Sarria Reserve Especial 2004: 14% ABV

Figs. Plums. Blueberry. Silky smooth. Figgy pudding. Brandy cream. Raisins. :- Oh yes this is the stand out of the day. Utterly smooth like velvet, lovely figgyness. Reminds me of a nice wine version of a brewed up and aged ESB. Unfortunately at 25 quid it is one of the more expensive for a bottle. Very fruity, very relaxing. very nice indeed.

Cal Pla Priorat 2013: 15% ABV

Blueberry. Jammy. Tannins. :- Erm, this came after Sonorio de Sarria Reserve Especial 2004 I may have been distracted and taken rubbish notes.

New World Vs Old World

Vincent Grail Sancerre Cuvee Tradition 2013: 12.5 % ABV

Dry and clean. Oatmeal finish. Dry honey. Chestnuts. Tangerine :- seemed a bit simple at first, dry and closed but over time lovely soft tangerine came out. Much better than first impressions and very enjoyable.

New World: Invivo Black Label Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough 2014: 13 % ABV

Musky. Gooseberries. Berry hairs. vanilla. Leather finish. :- This is the winner of the two, booming aroma, flavour and lovely finish.

Old World: Averys Fine Red Burgundy 2012: 13% ABV

Cherries. Dry tannins. Pepper. Lightly nutty. :- Slightly closed on the aroma here, but this worked better in the long run.

New World: Casa Silva Paredones Cool Coast Pinot Noir 2012: 14% ABV

So dark as to be nigh purple. Spicy. Rich. Raspberries. Sherry trifle. Earthy. Spicy. Dry. Turmeric. Brandy Cream :- This opened up well, wonderful on the eye and massive aroma, but the main body is slightly simpler earthy character which let old world take it here.

There was also a pair of riesling grapes wines given to us in this section blind. I managed to work out which one was old and new world! Ok, everyone managed to work that out based on which had the more booming aroma, but as a wine newbie I was quite chuffed. I didn’t get the names on these two, but I found them both quite gently lemon influenced, sweet and easy to drink.

A Barrel

Final Thoughts

One thing I have learnt. Sod problems trying to spell whisky distilleries, it is the names of wines that will give you headaches. Apparently the words “Less is more” never occurred to them. I may have got cramp in my hand typing out those scrabble winning lines. I may have misspelled some, I have double checked them as I wrote, but god damn those are some long names.

I also learnt the word “Autolytic” to refer to the, if I remember rightly, yeast character from secondary fermentation in bottles, most often found in Champagne and sparkling wines. I will now try to use it to sound more clever than I am.

Overall it was a very good event, well priced at 25 pounds, very experienced people walking you through the experience and giving a whole host of background information to help you enjoy it. Good quality bread and cheese given to both tide you over and complement the wine, and plenty of water to refresh. My only complaint was the event felt it needed a bit more time to breath (Ha ha, that’s a wine joke, no? I am such a shining wit). You had to rush through all the wine given at times, when I could happily have lingered longer. Maybe that is just me though. Still, as complaints go, they gave you too much wine is hardly the worst.



Homemade Kinkanshuu: Made March 2002 (Japan: Kinkanshuu: ABV No Idea)

Visual: Apricot. Very viscous.

Nose: Lime. Thick, pungent and slightly musky. Key lime. Almond. Lemon sorbet. Bitter almond.

Body: Menthol. Apricot and almond. Very thick syrup. Candy floss. Golden syrup. Lemon.

Finish: Candy floss. Blood orange and apricot. Light lime.

Conclusion: What a difference the choice of fruit makes. From what I know this is made on the same recipe as the umeshuu, and this is still syrupy and thick; this, however has a much bigger contrast between the elements within.

There is lots of citrus lime to give a tart touch, and odder still there is a fresh menthol feel that pretty much completely changes the experience. While the sweetness here is actually probably bigger and more candy floss like than in the umeshuu, the extreme contrast between the two elements actually means that it is actually easier to drink. That fresh menthol somehow cuts it away and leaves you enticed to have more.

There is great sharp, mouth wakening elements, and when it is sweet it dances on the tongue, somehow thick and viscous yet can cut through that in a moment to deliver the fruitiness. As you can probably imagine this is a wonderful combination that makes the most of what the base can deliver.

Sweet , fruity and fresh, a drink of contrast and complexity. Very enjoyable, surpassing even the Umeshuu. When given the chance, this was the drink I returned to.

Background: I said in the Umeshuu review that I had not have much experience of that, so it would be a simpler review than normal. I have never tried kinkanshuu before, so this is your insight into my first awakening into this drink world. This again, was homemade in Japan, and brought back by my friends, who kindly let me try some of it. Many thanks to both Darren and Maki for their kindness. While made in 2002, this was drunk in 2013 – a rare treat. A quick google as we drank revealed that kinkan is apparently a type of kumquat. Who says drinking doesn’t help your education? Again, I had to use my phone camera – so apologies for the low quality photo.

Home Made Umeshuu

Home Made Umeshuuu (Plum Wine) May 2002 Edition (Japan: Umeshuu: Unknown abv)

Visual: Honeyed to apricot, and very viscous.

Nose: Marzipan. Plums. Sugar dusting and stewed apricots.

Body: Honey. Plums. Almonds. Marzipan. Very thick texture. Syrup soaked sponge.

Finish: Stewed banana and honey. Plums.

Conclusion: My first umeshuu review! Ok, there is a good chance some of you have never tried plum wine, so I may have to set the scene. Depending on the quality, these things can go from cloying level syrupy sweet and simple, to quite delicate and complex. They are often drunk with ice, and I tend to find that the cheaper they are, the more sickly they are without soda or ice. The higher quality I tend to prefer neat, and drunk by the measure.

This one is sweet and thick, but comes with sweet almond and marzipan in a delicate touch over heavy syrup sweetness. The plums are well defined, rich and full with a good character of the actual fruit, but despite that are actually a secondary note behind the marzipan. You find the fruit greeting you after the initial sweetness has worn down.

That sweetness in the front, rather than being fruity, is closer to honeyed, though not quite to the level to give the impression of mead. It wavers close to being sickly, but relies on the delicate marzipan to make it less syrupy sweet. It doesn’t make it less sweet, but gives a less cloying nature to it that makes it very easy to drink.

A surprisingly delicately touched, fruity and lovely umeshuu.

Background: So, something a bit different here. My friend came back from visiting his wifes family in Japan, and brought back some home made uneshuu with them. They offered me the chance to do a review, and in the style of Beowulf Mead, I decided to give it a shot. Made in 2002 and drunk tail end 2013, this was a treat to be offered. This is a bit of a simpler review than normal as I am nowhere near an expert on umeshuu, so can’t do my usual comparisons (not that I’m an expert on beer and whisky either, but I do my best!). I only had my phone camera with my so the photo is a tad more rubbish than usual. Many thanks for the kind chance to try this umeshuu. どうもありがとうございます

I’m not much of one for Christmas, but I know that a lot of people out there are. So here’s a day when you not only gift fine beverages to friends, but also have a get out of jail free card for enjoying a couple with friends and family.

Plus there’s new Doctor Who.

So happy New Doctor Who day to everyone, enjoy your drink!

Bombus Insertis Beowulf Brew Mead (England: Mead – Batch 01: 12.5%?)

Made and kindly provided by the esteemed Paul Henderson

Visual: Pale lilac gold and clear without sediment.

Nose: Open oak cask, grain fields, light wave of alcohol and grapes/white wine.

Body: Clear honey, more of the grapes; slick. Very little alcohol kick. Very light

Finish: Light honey spread thinly on your tongue with a butter knife. Another fresh wine touch; very distinct grapes at the end.

Conclusion: A very light and slick mead, its alcohol punch virtually unnoticeable. Almost wine like but so very relaxing. Fine for summer drinking and watching the hours fall away.

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