Norfolk Wine and Spirits recently had a KAIYō whisky tasting and off course we were on board. For this tasting we purchased the samples and attended via zoom. The whiskies in the sample were: The Signature; Cask Strength; The Single and The Peated.
KAIYō (Ocean in Japanese), is a Japanese whisky… or is it? If you look on their website in the FAQ section, one of the questions asked is why Japanese whisky is not included on the label. Their answer is: “The reality is that there is no clear definition of what Japanese whisky is. Our vision was never to make a Japanese whisky, but rather to create one of the finest whiskies in the world, using the best ingredients and aging methods available.”
Ironically enough, there now is a clear definition on what Japanese should be. New Japanese whisky regulations were instilled as of April 1, 2021 and need to be adhered to by March 31, 2024. Some of the new requirements include:
Distillers must always use malted grains but may also include other cereal grains.
Water used to make whisky must be extracted in Japan.
Whisky must be matured in wooden casks stored in Japan for at least three years.
Bottling must take place only in Japan, with a minimum strength of 40% abv.
These new regulations will not only help shape and change the Japanese whisky industry, but it will help you, as a consumer, know more about what you are drinking.
KAIYō was created by Master Blender Jeffrey Karlovitch. They are a blending house as they currently don’t have an operational distillery. They source their whisky from whisky producers and if you are wondering who those producers are… your guess is as good as mine. This is information they aren’t sharing, but they do say their goal is to eventually have an operational distillery.
All their whiskies are matured in Japanese Mizunara Oak and before any of their whisky is bottled it spends roughly 3 months cruising the sea in a shipping container. The ship travels from Osaka, Japan to Liverpool, England by way of the Panama or Suez Canal. This not only helps develop the flavors of the whisky, but it also helps age it in a salty sort of way. Yum!
So… now that you have a little bit of this background let’s get to the fun stuff, the whisky. I’ve included pictures of the slides they shared during the presentation for you to see the tasting notes. If I had to rank these from favorite to least favorite here is what it would look like: The Peat, The Single, The Signature and Cask Strength.
For those of you who have followed me from the start, you might be shocked to know that the cask strength is my least favorite in this bunch. I’m a huge fan of cask strength whiskies, however not in this case. I felt the herbal essences in the whisky overpowered anything else. That is why it was my least favorite. In a cask strength I seek and want that abv power. When the herbs take over, that’s just not a win for me.
I am a huge fan of peated whiskies, but I have truly come to appreciate the subtleness or almost sweetness of the peat in Japanese whiskies. This one was no exception. The Peated whisky has the right amount of sweetness with light hints of that peat and spices. Therefore, it was my favorite. The other two whiskies were also good. If there is a thing to note is that they were all very smooth and in the case of the Signature somewhat delicate.
I honestly enjoyed exploring this whisky range. Aside from their cask strength whisky I would drink all these again. I do however suggest getting the minis to try as that will help you decide which one works for you.
Note: The contents on my blog are solely my opinion. To me every palate is different! Although I may or may not like a product, I always recommend for people to try it and make up their own minds.