I’ve covered the Ohishi and Fukano whiskies here on TWJ a bit and I’ve veen written an article about them for Malibu magazine. I think they’re interesting, unique and carry a level of nuanced flavors and aromas not readily found in other whiskies due to its all rice mashbill. In short, I’m a fan and being a fan the second SCWC announced the opportunity to taste all of the new ones alongside food from the same region they’re made in I leapt at the opportunity.
Though just saying that it was food from the Kumamoto region feels like I’m downplaying exactly what the night entailed. The chef preparing the food grew up next to the Ohishi distillery and was a family friend of the master distiller. They got flying fish imported from Japan as well as rice from the region – the same rice that gets used to make the sochu that becomes the whisky. How amazing is that?
The food perfectly complimented all of the whisky that was poured that night and each dish was more flavorful and enticing than the last. Even the rice, which was incredibly sticky, had a wonderful naturally sweet flavor. But this isn’t a food blog, it’s a whisky blog and really that’s what you came here for and the core of why I attended the tasting. To get the opportunity to try all of the new Ohishi and Fukano releases that will be making their way out this year.
1) Fukano 2017: 42.8% – “oak” and ex-French Wine casks
- Nose: Sweet rice, sake, brown sugar, dried fruit, butterscotch and a touch floral.
- Palate: Sweet rice, toffee, brown sugar, dark fruit, spice and a touch floral.
- Finish: Medium -> Brown sugar, sweet sake and a touch of cinnamon.
- Overall: B (83-86) On the higher end of the B scale for sure. It carries a nice balance even though it’s not wildly complex it’s perfectly satisfying.
2) Ohishi Sherry: 41.8% – ex-Sherry casks
- Nose: Sherry, sake, spice, caramel, dark fruit, touch biscuity and nutty.
- Palate: Sherry, sake, spice, caramel, dark fruit, frosting sweetness, clove, dark fruit and nuts.
- Finish: Long -> Sherry, nuts, ash, sake and dark sweets.
- Overall: B+ (87-89) Dynamic, deep and delicious. I’m on the fence about giving it an A- so keeping it at a B+ for now, but this release is one to keep your eye out for.
3) Ohishi Islay Cask: 41.2% – ex-Islay cask (peated whisky cask)
- Nose: Peat, rice sweetness, licorice, wax, vanilla and a touch metallic.
- Palate: Peat, rice sweetness, cinnamon, raisiny, toffee, taffy, citrus and metal.
- Finish: Long -> Vanilla taffy, peat, rice sweetness and toffee.
- Overall: A- (90-92) Who knew a rice based whisky would taste so good when combined with peat? The typically light spirit absorbed a tremendous amount of peat from the cask making it seem like the rice itself was peated, amazing.
4) Fukano Single Cask: 41.8% – ex-Bourbon
- Nose: Toffee, spice, cinnamon, vanilla, coconut and a light astringent quality.
- Palate: Coconut, rice, spice, toffee, fruit, caramel and vanilla with a bit more of that astringent quality.
- Finish: Medium -> Brown sugar, coconut and cinnamon.
- Overall: B- (80-82) Not my favorite execution of Fukano, but also not my least favorite either. Some of their early brandy casks were… well… yeah.
5) Ohishi Sherry Cask 833: 41.5% – ex-Sherry cask
- Nose: Sherry, sake, dark fruit, spice and roasted nuts with a bit of butter.
- Palate: Sherry, sake, dark fruit, spice and roasted nuts with a bit of cocoa and butter.
- Finish: Long -> Sherry, nuts, clove, spice and oil.
- Overall: B+ (87-89) If I could implant one single idea about the experience of this whisky it would be this scenario. Take a slice of good fruit cake (they do exist) and toast it in a toaster oven for a bit and when it comes out put a thin layer of butter on it. That’s what kept running through my head while enjoying this whisky.
6) Ohishi Brandy Cask: 41.8% – ex-Brandy cask
- Nose: Dried grain, citrus, sake sweetness, salted caramel, vanilla icing and a bit of fruit.
- Palate: Dried fruit, spice, sake sweetness, toffee and a touch of green apple.
- Finish: Medium -> A big wave of green apple, caramel and sake.
- Overall: B (83-86) High on the B scale and incredibly interesting. While not my favorite Ohishi I’ve ever had it’s definitely a fun whisky and I enjoy the way the green apple note slowly creeps up and then overtakes the senses on the finish.
7) Ohishi Tokubetsu Reserve: 40% – ex-Sherry casks
- Nose: Sherry, dark fruit, cocoa, dried cherries, sake sweetness, spiced cake, molasses and a touch of nuts.
- Palate: Sherry, dark fruit, cocoa, dried cherries, sake sweetness, spiced cake, molasses and a touch of nuts and oak.
- Finish: Long -> Sherry, dark fruit, dark sweets, nuts and oak.
- Overall: A (93-97) Hands down my favorite Ohishi I’ve ever had and I’ve luckily had a LOT of Ohishi. It’s dark, its’ sweet, it’s nuanced and most surprising of all it’s a bit oaky. I believe the term for this whisky would be multi-faceted.
This tasting has only helped further my appreciation and love for this new wave of rice-based Japanese whiskies in America. Do they resonate like a single malt? No, of course not and they’re not supposed to.
They’re supposed to be different, they’re supposed to unique, they’re supposed to give you a totally different experience. Their purpose is to be unlike everything else out there and to eschew the malty status quo and bring new aromas, flavors and experiences to today’s curious drinkers. That’s why I like them so much.
Till next time – Cheers!