Shizuoka distillery is one of the youngest (post-Chichibu) in Japan. It is located in the mountains around the city named Shizuoka (South-West of Tokio) and it is owned by Gaia Flow (a company we know as the distributor of Asta Morris bottling in Japan) with some involvement of Robin Tucek of Blackadder.
They appear to do things right, starting with the fact that the grain mill and one of their stills were bought over from the legendary Karuizawa distillery (serving as a wash still back then). Apart from this they also use a wood-fired spirit still from Scotland (said to give a more weighty spirit) and a third one which is indirectly heated with steam coils.
Since its opening in 2017 there have been occasions to try new make samples as well as a few maturing cask samples, but in December 2020 they’ve presented their first single malt produced on the ex-Karuizawa still: Shizuoka Prologue K.
The whisky is 3 years old, matured in first-fill bourbon barrels and bottled at 55.5% ABV. Half of the malt was grown in Japan, the rest was imported. The bottle aesthetics remind me of Suntory’s releases in a way.
Shizuoka 3 yo ‘Prologue K’ (55,5%, OB 2020, bourbon barrels)
Nose: quite special, because there’s a big hint of oil paint and nail polish remover up front. It works nicely alongside the mineral character of the spirit, showing wet limetone and earth. Hints of ginger, caraway and aniseed. Fresh peppermint as well. Bready notes, hints of almonds, yellow plums and very light woody vanilla in the background. Still young but already evoking some Hampden rums, artisan mezcal and Springbank malts. Impressive.
Mouth: indeed there’s a mineral austerity which reminds me of Springbank (at a higher age). Lots of bright fruity notes (lemons, peaches, greengages). Then back to caraway seeds, chinchona bark, crushed black peppercorns. There’s a juniper and mustardy sharpness that gives away its youth, but again it adds up to the overall profile.
Finish: long, clean, with a great balance of sharpness, spiciness and subtle sweetness.
Dornoch, Bimber, Waterford… here’s is a big, big contender. This Shizuoka is probably the highest scoring 3 year-old I’ve had, and the future is definitely looking bright. In Japan this was sold for around € 65, but being a first release from Japan this is already fetching tenfold.