From the Left: Essence of Suntory, Matsui Sakura, Kamiki Sakura, Amahagan Yamazakura PHOTO: GEORGE KOUTSAKIS
Trends come and go in the whisky world, yet, the boom of Japanese whisky has continued for quite some time. Over the years certain categories and cask types have grown more popular, while others have been left behind. Presently, in Japan’s whisky world, a new experimental wood finish is trending, the Sakura AKA cherry blossom wood finish. Today, on the 28th of April, Suntory has released its very own Sakura wood finished whisky made at their Chita grain distillery. As Japan’s most famous whisky maker, expectations are high.
To date we’ve seen several whisky releases featuring Japanese cherry blossom tree wood finishes. The small Nagahama distillery released the Amagahan Yamazakura finish last year. At 47% ABV this world blend was finished in sakura wood casks, bringing out lively notes of citrus and fresh cherry blossoms, with a touch of honey. Mars Shinshu, one of Japan’s most well known small distilleries also released the Mars Sakura Cask Finish, a blend finished in the cherry blossom wood. Looking at Japanese single malts, Matsui released the Matsui Sakura Cask, however, the single malt was rather young and thus the palate too sharp for the sakura wood notes to shine through and be enjoyed. Most recently, the Kamiki blended whisky, famed for being aged in Japanese cedar casks, released their own Sakura wood finished Kamiki expression. The Kamiki Sakura is one of the more balanced sakura expressions to date, with notes of incense, sandalwood, and fresh spring flowers.
The trend is growing and Japan’s cherry blossom trees are showing up more and more as a maturation component. For the first time, Suntory, Japan’s largest and most famous whisky maker has announced a cherry wood finished expression from their Chita grain whisky distillery. Sadly, the release will be highly limited and only available in Japan, so it may be time to get in touch with your friends in the land of the rising sun.
The Essence Of Suntory – Chita Distillery Sakura Cask Finish Blend
Like most of the other Sakura wood releases this is a blend. However, only containing Chita’s grain whiskies. The most exciting part? All the whiskies within the blend were distilled in 2000, then aged in white oak casks for at least 15 years; this makes Suntory’s Sakura release the oldest and most mature Japanese whisky to utilize the wood thus far. After a decade and a half, the whisky was aged for at least 3 years in Sakura wood. While some other releases have not openly announced how long the liquid rested in Sakura wood, Suntory has ben transparent and it is, indeed, a substantially long finish. Therefore, drinkers will truly be able to break down the Sakura notes and understand the flavour profile. The bottles are 500ml sized at 50% ABV. The Suntory team tells us to expect Sakura mochi notes, which sounds delightful.
Tasting Notes by Suntory:
Aromas: Refreshing sakura mochi
Taste: Lychee, white grapes, Acacia honey
Finish: Long finish led by cherry blossom aromas.
Alongside the Chita release, Suntory has announced their first rice whisky, distilled at the Suntory-owned Osumi distillery.
Rice whisky has been used as a ploy by many companies to use Japanese whisky’s stellar global image of quality and attach it to products made from rice, similar to Japan’s shochu spirit. Suntory entering the category is quite a surprise but there is not enough information available yet to understand their strategy.
For now, stay tuned and attempt to sample the Essence of Suntory – Chita Distillery Sakura Finish.