Friday 1 July 2022

Togouchi & Sakurao "core range" Single Malt Japanese Whisky releases [Tasted #578 - 579]

Almost 12 months ago, we took a look on the current state of the Japanese whisky market, including tasting a number of new releases from an exciting wave of newer Japanese distilleries producing proper (i.e. distilled-in-Japan) Japanese whisky. 

One of those whiskies was Sakurao's 1st Release Cask Strength, which was particularly interesting as it marked the first whisky from Sakurao Distillery (formerly Chugoku Jozo) to be distilled in Japan. Previously, they'd been producing Togouchi whisky - aged in Japan, but distilled in Scotland / Canada. I mentioned that the distillery had (somewhat confusingly) also released a new, Japanese-distilled Togouchi, but at the time it was for the domestic market only.

Fast forward to 2022, and Sakurao Distillery have now released their "core range", regular line-up of both Sakurao & Togouchi - both now available in Hong Kong.

Whilst distilled at the same distillery, Togouchi is aged for more than 3 years in a disused railway tunnel in the forest (Hiroshima mountains) , in ex-Bourbon barrels. Sakurao, on the other hand, is aged in Sakurao, seto Island Sea, in 4 different cask types (ex-Bourbon, ex-Sherry, American Oak & Mizunara).

First releases (especially when single casks) are always fun, but they're not always representative of the distillery's ambitions, or intentions for a core product, so I was excited to dive in and see what these approachable (43%) core/regular releases had in store...

Sakurao Single Malt Japanese Whisky (43% ABV, at least 3yo, Sakurao Japan, $1,100HKD available from AFTrade)
Colour: Golden straw.

Nose: Honeycomb, ginger tea and orange cake

Palate: Honey toast, BBQ-singed oranges, and peach tea, followed by a little vanilla and woodsmoke.

Finish: Long, with vanilla shortbread notes followed by fresh peaches.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 88/100. A solid showing for a first core release - and a very solid competitor to other new distillery releases around this price point. 

Togouchi Single Malt Japanese Whisky (43% ABV, at least 3yo, Sakurao Japan, $1,100HKD available from AFTrade)
Colour: Pale straw.

Nose: Green bananas, banana chews and minty peas.

Palate: More banana chews, intertwined with notes of rockmelon & vanilla ice cream.

Finish: Medium in length, with a fresh apple crispness.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 89/100. Another solid showing. This is one of those whiskies where you say "you know what? Yeah, it's on the younger side, but it's just super drinkable and tasty." A worthwhile pickup for anyone who wants to see what the future of Japanese whisky could look like.

As with previous (and no doubt future) Sakurao Distillery releases, AFTrade (who provided these bottles for review) are distributing and selling these in Hong Kong. Well worth a look.


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