Whisky Odyssey
Old-fashioned with a twist of the modern 

Tasting notes for new(ish) Yoichi Japanese malt whisky

Not only do I like a good glass of whisky every now and then, I am also a dedicated follower of Formula 1. If you are like me located in Europe, that means you have to set the alarm for an early qualification and race. Max Verstappen and his 19 challengers race in Japan this weekend. That inspired me to reacquaint myself with Japanese single malt whisky. When I started my odyssey, Japanese single malts were a hidden gem, and readily available to taste at festivals or by just buying a bottle. My favourites in those days were Yamazaki, Karuizawa, Miyagikyo and Yoichi single malts. But that was a long time ago. We entered an age of limited availability of (mature) Japanese single malt, and soaring prices for what was left. No sense in looking back, I moved on, and only very occasionally drank something from Japan.

While making an inventory of rare samples in my drawer, I stumbled on two belters. Make sure to tune in next week, because I will taste (and blog about) them both next Saturday. Today we start with currently available expressions of one of my favourites: Yoichi.

A little background: Yoichi (est. 1934) is one of two Japanese distilleries owned by Nikka Whisky, the other being Miyagikyo Distillery (est. 1969). In Scotland they also own Ben Nevis. It was the Godfather of Japanese whisky, the honourable Masataka Taketsuru, who learned the ways of making (Scotch) whisky and choose a location very similar to Scotland for the Yoichi Distillery. Surrounded by mountains and close to the sea. Yoichi to this day still practises the way of coal-firing their stills, which are said to resemble those of Longmorn, where Masataka learned the practice of distilling. More about Miyagikyo next week, when we have a sample in the glass.


Yoichi Single Malt, bottled at 45 % abv

Makeup: From the company website: “This no-age-statement version was released in 2016 as a permanent product that captures the authentic style of Yoichi malts, when all age-statements were discontinued. Vatting various different malt whiskies together, this bottling expresses a balance between peaty, smoky and fruity aromas.” So, no age, no information on casks used.

General impressions: Yoichi was dubbed “the Japanese Lagavulin” when the brand started snatching up worldwide recognition and scoring high praise from that guy with the Bible. When I stick my nose in the glass now, I do get a nice lemon scent associated with young peat whisky. But this ageless Yoichi is by no means a peat monster. The scent is actually much more maritime in nature, very fresh, infused with wet green apples and juicy pear. Time for a sip: a creamy mouthfeel envelops the tongue, with soft bready notes. Very nice and oily, but not in a Caol Ila kind of way. More like a maritime soul in a Speyside body. Very soft and gentle on the exit, but this is were you get your dose of candied peat influence. Light but undeniably there. Going back to the glass every now and then, you will get new fruity scents every time.

Conclusion: A well-composed single malt indeed, the only thing lacking is more oomph. At the same time it displays a gentle complexity that makes it more than an aperitive dram.

Score: 84 points
Disclaimer: taken from a sample acquired via Whiskysite.nl.

Yoichi Single Malt 10 years old, bottled at 45 % abv

Makeup: Bottled in June 2022 in a batch of 9000 bottles. No other details.

General impressions: Just one touch deeper in colour than the NAS Yoichi. Because I taste these whisky’s in pairs, I think the lemon scents are firstly forced upon me, while they are much more subdued. The main aroma is now defined by fresh foggy forest, pinewood and tropical markers like fermenting pineapple and grapefruit. Very entertaining and complex, but a premature conclusion has to be this whisky should be bottled at 50 % abv.

The taste is really full and rich on red fruits, wood spices and vanilla, all very well combined together in perfect harmony. Interestingly, I do not really pick up on peat anymore, as if it turned into a fruity note already after only 10 years. I think I could trick some enthusiasts by telling them this is a new Ardmore. This Yoichi displays a mature highland character with a frivolous fruity soul. Such an elegant whisky. I wonder if any sherry cask was used in the creation of this expression. Maybe just a few to add this sugary sweetness on the middle of the palate.

Conclusion: Truly enjoyable and I would love for this Yoichi to be more widely available. It is such a whisky, like the Lagavulin 16 years old, you can always have an opened bottle of in your cabinet. The problem is, for the price of this Yoichi, you can buy two of those Lagavulins. Hoping that this will change in the future. Yoichi deserves a larger following.

Score: 89 points

Disclaimer: taken from a sample acquired via Whiskysite.nl.

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