Fuji Gotemba

Fuji Gotemba Single Grain Blender’s Choice (46%, OB, 2015)

Review: Fuji Gotemba Single Grain Blender’s Choice

Category: Japanese single grain whisky

Origin: Fuji Gotemba Distillery

Bottling: Official – Kirin

ABV: 46%

Cost: €110

Score: 83/100

kirin-single-grain-2015-blenders-choice.jpg

What they say:

Recently voted Best Japanese grain whisky at the World Whiskies Awards 2015, Kirin Single Grain Blender’s Choice 2015 is a limited edition of a blend of single grains expressing amazing aromas, and carefully selected by Jota Tanaka Chief Blender at Fuji Gotemba Distillery. This rewarded batch has been bottled in a limited edition.

Characterized by a fruity nose expressing aromas of pineapple, apricot and vanilla, Kirin Single Grain Blender’s Choice 2015 unleashes on the palate a gourmet blend of aromas of honey, brown sugar and peach in the background with some spicy notes frankincense and cinnamon. It was bottled at 46% without chill filtration in order to get a round and slightly oily texture that allows it to deliver the power of its aromas.

Founded in 1973 at the foot of Mount Fuji, Kirin Fuji Gotemba distillery is distilling malts and grains whiskies into column or traditional pot stills, creating a wide variety of types of whisky vatted with expertise as well, which both Blender’s Choice are a perfect illustration.

What I say:

Currently Japanese whisky appears to be in flux. Sadly no-one could have predicted the meteoric rise in interest in Japanese whisky that we have experienced over the last few years. In fact at home Japanese single malt whisky was performing poorly on the home market in the 1980’s and production was scaled back or halted by the big producers such as Nikka and Suntory, leaving production only for their top-selling blends. However Fuji Gotemba was built in the 1970’s during better times, starting production of both grain and single malt whisky in 1973 and rapidly became one of the biggest producing distilleries in the world. Widely available in the Japanese home market for some time, their recent successes mean that worldwide interest is growing in Fuji-Gotemba whisky now solely owned by Kirin (already known for their brewery and beer) since 2002. A combination of these factors has led to botha  reduction in availability but an increase in diversity of Japanese whisky in recent years – despite many not officially being available on these shores!

Colour:

Full amber gold (9/20) quick-moving large tears leave thick/loose legs

Nose:

Flinty and coppery, mineralic, huge dollop of vanilla, maple syrup, molasses and caramelised sugars, cereal malt and grains, oaty flapjack, zesty grapefruit pith, earthen musty and dusty, some dried fruits like raisins

Taste:

Orange zest and oil, sharp, initially syrupy like a honey glaze, before thinning to become spicy and watery with raisin, vanilla essence and caramel

Finish:

Short, vanilla, struck matches and oak wood

Overall:

An interesting whisky that diminishes (i.e. nose>palate>finish). Given time I found this one breathes well and the initial mineralic and almost chemical nature of grain whisky softened in the glass and allowed much more of the subtle complexity of vanilla and cereal grain flavours to shine through. This expression was also sold as part of a blender’s kit along with their single malt expression which I would have dearly loved to try. Hopefully more will become available worldwide and someday we can try it. Many thanks as usual to Japanese whisky aficionado Bret Boivin for securing this expression for us.

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