Mizunara oak basically was discovered by Japanese distillers out of necessity, during World War II. It is a bitch to work with, as it has a higher moisture content than other types of oak, making it more difficult to work with. Also, a tree needs to be 200 years old before it can be molded into a casks. And lastly, it is very porous, which you can imagine is a problem.
But over time it has grown into somewhat of a buzz word. Currently, Mizunara is almost a synonym for expensive, which a lot of people equate to quality. Mizunara aged whisky is rare, but that’s logical because of the above mentioned issues. It makes Mizunara casks quite expensive. Furthermore, in early stages of Mizunara maturation, the oak imparts quite an intense woodiness.
And yet, Mizunara aged whiskies are highly sought after. Kind of strange, no? The whisky I’m trying today is the Yamazaki Mizunara from 2013. The Yamazaki Sherry Cask from the same year was named the world’s best whisky by Jim Murray, making the Mizunara release expensive by association.
Is it worth it? Well, no, of course not. When is a whisky worth 1.500 euro? Pretty much never. Therefor, it’s not fair to judge this Yamazaki Mizunara on its monetary worth. What I will do, is judge it (as best as I can) on its quality. Then you decide if you want to pay a premium for it.
Yamazaki Mizunara (48%, OB, 2013)
Nose: Fresh fruits like red apple and banana peel, followed by subtle notes of sandal wood and cardboard, with a slight waxiness to boot. Hints of juniper and cloves too, as well as some lemon custard. Taste: Hints of saw dust, but also plenty of citrus notes, such as lemon and apricots, and even some mango. However, this is not as fruity as it may sound. It has a tannic layer too, with a spicy bitterness and earl grey tea. Finish: Lingering bitterness. Medium in length.
While it is certainly a good whisky (that nose is really attractive), the oak gets a little too much room on the palate. Lots of tannins and a good hit of bitterness.