To break into the incredibly popular Japanese Whisky market, we wanted something that, just like our wine selection, would not only over-deliver in regard to complexity and flavour, but would also have a great story to accompany it.
His Whiskies are not single malt from the start, however, because of the practice of teaspooning these purchased casks. Teaspooning is the practice of adding a small amount of another Whisky to a barrel, anywhere from a drop (or a teaspoon) to a full bottle. This practice prevents the purchaser or independent bottler from claiming that the Whisky is a single malt from the seller, and selling it under its name.
The base whisky is then transferred to the most expensive and complex oak barrels in the world; Mizunara Oak. Mizunara Oak casks are among the rarest casks in the world and are considered the finest in which to mature Whisky. The native Japanese Mizunara oak tree is incredibly difficult to cut and shape, and only the most skilled coopers can work this wood.These oak trees must be a minimum of 200 years old before they are large enough to be used.
So why go to all this trouble and expense? It's because of the incredibly complex range of flavours Mizunara oak imparts on the spirit inside. Oak is the most influential factor in the flavour of whisky, and Mizunara brings flavours of orange, lavender, dried berry, coconut, honey and vanilla, as well as a deep mahogany colour and luxurious, creamy soft mouthfeel.
After years of maturing in Japan, these unique casks go on a final maturation stage. They are sent on a sea voyage, leaving from Osaka, Japan and arriving in Scotland 3 months later. This voyage allows the complex flavours to integrate into the spirit as lends a maritime flavour to the final blend.
If you're unfamiliar with the legend of Japanese Mizunara oak, it's become heralded in the whisky world both for the exotic flavors of incense, sandalwood, and coconut it passes along to the spirit, as well as its expense. Difficult to cooper and notoriously inefficient as a vessel, editions of Yamazaki and Bowmore aged in Mizunara wood have sold at four figure prices, making the Kaiyo whiskies in comparison seem like a steal. You get an exotic note of tea and faint orange peel on the nose of the standard Kaiyo edition, but the soft and rather delicate palate brings more of the vanilla and oak character. The spices come out on the finish with lots of pepper and oolong. It's very Japanese in its restraint, graceful from front to back without any serious peaks or valleys. - 4.5/5pts, David Driscoll
This is the favorite. It is balanced and has all of the complexities that one may seek in a Japanese whisky. Definitely adding some water or ice, makes this one shine, adding more fruit flavors. - 4.5/5pts, The Whisky Wash
Pastry, egg custard, and allspice flavors; there’s just enough body apparent as the spices settle down, unleashing a substantial wave of vanilla creaminess. Leaves a long aftertaste, like a light-hearted pillow fight between the vanilla cream and the fading spices. - Wine & Sprits Magazine
Read more about Kaiyo's processes at kaiyowhisky.com