Review: Ohishi Kaito’s Cask, Islay Cask, and Tokubetsu Reserve Whisky
Ohishi made a splash in 2016 when it arrived in the U.S. after over 140 years of producing rice-based whisky. We reviewed its inaugural offerings at the time. Today we turn our attention to three new releases, each more exotic than the last.
Ohishi Kaito’s Cask Whisky – This is a special selection of Ohishi’s Sherry Cask, which we reviewed previously, hand selected by Chris Udhe of GRC Imports in celebration of the birth of his son Kaito Uhde. A nose of sandalwood and ash keeps things close to the vest, but on the palate, things change considerably. Here, notes of butterscotch and vanilla are amplified by sherry-driven orange blossoms and cloves. The finish is sharp, with lingering notes of almond, nutmeg, and more mixed florals. It’s engaging and intriguing through and through, but all filtered through a light and lively body. 83.6 proof. B+ / $80
Ohishi Islay Cask Whisky – No big surprise here: This is Ohishi’s Brandy Cask whisky, fully matured then finished for 8 months in a former Islay Scotch cask. This combination presents an immediately curious combination of aromas and flavors. The nose is immediately smoky, but also sweet, with a barbecue sauce kick and notes of slightly muddy river vegetation. The palate is a different animal, offering a meaty character up-front followed by notes of raisins and plum wine. The smoke becomes more evident as the finish develops, which brings a lighter hand of peat to bear on the fruitier elements of the palate. A little weird, but quite a fun little spirit. 83.4 proof. B+ / $90
Ohishi Tokubetsu Reserve Whisky – This is Ohishi’s highest-end spirit to date, and its first U.S. release with any sort of age statement. 36% of the spirit is bottled from 7 year old casks, 35% from 10 year old casks, and 29% from ancient 27 year old casks. All of these appear to be sherry barrels. A nose of old sherry is immediate here, nutty foremost, with notes of wood oil, some funky petrol character, and a hint of beef bouillon. The palate is heavy, despite the relatively low abv, loaded to the gills with notes of roasted chestnuts, furniture polish, and old Amontillado-style sherry. What develops over time are notes of old, well-ripened fruit, leather, and a bit of old spice… like, literally, Old Spice cologne. Somehow this works fairly well, coming across a lot like an old single grain Scotch whisky, still redolent of the earth but slowly finding its uniqueness. 81 proof. B+ / $220