Shirakawa 1958 single malt Japanese whisky
1. What they say
The Shirakawa Distillery operated for nearly six and a half decades before being demolished in 2003. During this time the distillery produced malt whisky, rumoured to be delightfully exquisite. It seemed Shirakawa Distillery would guard her secrets forever until a discovery of its liquid history was unearthed.
This incredibly rare and limited release single malt, is believed to be the earliest known single vintage Japanese whisky ever bottled. It will be the only official single malt ever to be released from Shirakawa Distillery. The world’s rarest Japanese whisky ever bottled is distributed worldwide by Tomatin Distillery Co. Ltd.https://tomatindistillery.com/shirakawa-distillery/
2. Official tasting notes
- Nose: This aged single malt displays complex layers of waxy oak-driven aromas whilst retaining the vibrancy of a truly exceptional spirit. Sweet fruit and nut in the form of marzipan, candied pineapple and orange liqueur are to the fore, gradually making way for more organic notes of cut grass, honeysuckle and coconut. The seductive scent of exotic incense captures waves of spices, floral and woody aromas.
- Palate: The balance of maturity and vibrancy continues well onto the palate. An almost effervescent apple and zingy lime curd are quickly balanced by soft marzipan and white chocolate. This mix of fruit and nut evolves into a tropical trail mix with a dusting of cinnamon and ginger
- Finish: In time, the fruits dissipate leaving a soft nuttiness, light spice and a touch of smoke.
- ABV 49%
- Age Undeclared
- Bottler OB
- Bottling 1958 vintage
- Cask Unknown – likely Mizunara oak
- Category Single malt japanese whisky
- Cost £25,000 from Master of Malt
- Origin Shirakawa Distillery (closed)
- Region Japan
- Released 2022
4. What I say
It is not often I get a chance to sample Japanese whisky these days, not least a sample from a distillery almost no-one has ever even heard of! A chance conversation between colleagues at Tomatin distillery and parent company Takara Shuzo uncovered the history of the Shirakawa distillery built in the Fukushima prefecture. Established in 1939 by Daikoku Budoshu and purchased by Takara Shuzo in 1947, Shirakawa distillery produced wine, brandy and Shochu amongst other spirits before malt whisky production started in 1951 and covered three periods from 1951-57, 1958-1966 and 1968-1969. Malt whisky was distilled in twin copper pot stills and matured primarily in Tohoku and Mizunara oak casks for use in Takara Shuzo’s flagship Japanese blend ‘King Whisky’. This parcel of single malt was distilled in 1958, cask matured and later bottled into ceramic jars thus its maturation age has been lost to history. Prior to the demolition of the distillery the company transferred this parcel in steel tanks to another location, by the early 1990’s Shirakawa was no more than a bottling factory and the company was focussed on the rising trend in white spirits and Shochu from the 1980’s not cask matured stock. Shirakawa was demolished in 2003. The company that setup Shirakawa, Daikoku was later involved in Karuizawa distillery – another famed lost japanese whisky distillery. An exploration of the history of Shirakawa revealed not only living memory of former workers at the distillery but also knowledge of this remaining parcel of Shirakawa 1958 vintage stock, a true piece of liquid history!
Thanks to Tomatin distillery & Scott Adamson their global brand ambassador for providing a sample and 1:1 tasting of this product.
5. The Whiskyphiles tasting notes
- Colour Old gold (12/20), slow, medium-fine tears and thicker legs.
- Nose Fruity, musty, yeasty, incense, sandalwood, peach and pineapple fruits, dusty, dry oak and earthy dark chocolate, caramelised nuts, takes time to really open up and reveal its complexity, indicative of its true age.
- Taste Vanillic and sweet white chocolate, gently spices, medium-bodied, woody, earthy, dark chocolate and tropical fruits, spice that grows, clove, cinnamon, marzipan, with a soft vibrancy of spirit, with water this opens up more to reveal orange peel, lemon and lime, juicy citrus and tropicality including pineapple and grapefruit, roast almonds, woody tannins are also released with a drop of water, becomes more mouth coating rather than a closed and woody, gently spicy, sandalwood and more cereals and thick malt are revealed, delicious.
- Finish Long, gentle, pineapple sweetness, drying earthy oak persists, soft cracked black pepper, liquorice, camphor wood and woody herbs.
A truly delicious combination of tropical fruit, nuts and exotic oak wood influence full of earthy and woody spices and chocolate. It is hard to compare this unique piece of liquid history other than to say it is on par with some of the oldest Scotch single malts invariably derived from Speyside thanks to their careful maturation over many decades.