For my day-after-the-snowstorm whiskies, I chose the peaceful balance of Japanese whisky. Although Japanese whisky started out in the Scotch tradition, they can play around within the whisky rules, and I have had several unique whiskies from there. As a whole, they tend to be delicate and well balanced.
I went for a lesser known distillery, White Oak, against one of Japan’s whisky giants, the Nikka Distillery. For Japanese whiskies, these are very affordable - the Akashi from White Oak comes in at less than $40, although production is small, and the Taketsuru from Nikka is considered an entry level whisky for Japan at under $70. While the Taketsuru is richer, I think they both offer a harmonious whisky, where no one flavor takes over the others.
The White Oak Distillery mainly produces sake and barley shochu (Japan’s national drink), but started making whisky in 1984 and now devotes one to two months a year to the good stuff. It's a small production, but seems like they get enough practice.
What I knew: blended whisky, 80 proof
What I discovered: Of the two whiskies, this was lighter, very grassy and earthy on the nose. It had a woodsy, mossy, meadow type taste mingled with honey, lemon, orange, and floral. With a hint of smoke to it, I taste the Scotch tradition, but still feel it has its own flavor. A refreshing walk in the woods.
The Taketsuru is named in honor of Masataka Taketsuru, who established the Nikka Distillery in 1934 and is credited with bringing the Scottish-style of making whisky over to Japan. This bottle has no age statement, a recent development on several of the Japanese whiskies (and bourbon, for that matter due to a high demand that makes it tough to age the whisky as long.
What I knew: Malt whisky blended from several different distilleries, 86 proof
What I discovered: This had a heavier taste, with a hint of smoke, but something else – like coal. If the Akashi is more like licking wood or moss, this is more like licking rocks. In all the complimentary ways I mean by that. The sips had a charming way of opening up on the tongue like a bouquet of soft flavors- sweet, floral, lemon, and faint smoke.