Whisky is at home in Paris : the Fromagerie Julhès, with the importer and retailer La Maison du Whisky (LMdW) and a few other people, have organized a whisky-tasting day with both Japanese and Scottish whiskies. This took place in a back room of the shop, which is located at 54 rue du Faubourg Saint-Denis in the 10th arrondissement. First, let me write a few words about Julhès (pictured on left) : I discovered this place which is both a cheese shop with a very good selection of authentic cheeses from the French provinces, and a wine shop with a samely well-inspired wine and spirits list. Plus, you'll find here good bread and excellent charcuteries. It is located in a diverse neighborhood, out of the tourist beaten path and it embodies the good old professional food shop where you feel a continuity in the quality and service rooted in the early 20th century. You find there the good wines and all the good artisan delicacies to go with, beginning with cheese and saucisson.
La Maison du Whisky is an European heavy weight in the whisky importation business, and they are doing a great job for the popularization of Japanese whiskies on the continent. To be frank, I came to this tasting for the Japanese spirits but I was very happy to discover excellent bottles of fine Scottish whiskies here.
Let me now pay my tribute to Rita Taketsuru, a Scottish woman named Jessie Roberta (surnamed Rita) who fell in love in the late 1910s' with a young Japanese who had travelled to this faraway country to study whisky making : Masataka Taketsuru was to become later the founder of one of the most lauded whisky distillery, Nikka, which is labelled as possibly the best whisky maker in the world today... This love story sort of epitomizes the special relation between Scotland and Japan in their pursuit of excellency. Read their story on this Japan Times article (thanks to Nonjatta for the link).
__ Nikka from the barrel. More on the bourbon side, says Nick. Double matured blennded whisky. The mouthfeel is nice, almost sugary. Onctuous whisky. 51,4 °.
__ Suntory Hakushu Single Malt, 12 years. Dana says that this is more smoky. There's a good complexity on the nose. I'd say that the mouth has a peppery side. 43 °. Costs 65 €.
__ Suntory Hibiji 17 years. Blend of whiskies from the Yamazaki distillery (founded in 1923) and the Hakashu distillery (built 50 years later in 1973). 43 °. At the same time very silky on the side of the mouth and strong while it goes down the throat. Beautiful whisky with spicy notes. The 2nd mouth shows even more onctuous...
__ Suntory Yamazaki Single Malt Sherry Cask. It's a non chill filtered whisky, a limited edition (16 000 bottles worldwide), not straight from the cask (brut de fût) but a bit higher in alcohol than usual : 48 °. Very dark-gold color. That IS a very strong whisky... Lots of freshness all the while being strong. Nick says that as the bottle has been opened quite some time ago, there's been oxydation and the whisky has been somehow "softened". I read somewhere that it was released last year and comprises whiskies aged from 12 to 15 years.
__ Nikka Single Cask Coffey Grain 1995. 60 °. Made in the Nishinomiya distillery, now closed, bottled in 2009. The alambic has been transferred from Nishinomiya to the Miyagikyo distillery. 95 % corn and 5 % malt. I learn that the grain whisky is very close to an armagnac, somehow. This whisky is 15 years old, still very young. The color is yellowish with green nuances, very bright reflections. Very very onctuous but quite strong when you swallow... It was at 90 ° alcohol in the casks and it was lightly diluted. The sugary side comes from the corn, let's remind that it's almost a 100 % bourbon here.
__ Hakushu Single Malt Whisky. Heavily Peated, says the label. Another high-end Suntory whisky. 48 ° in alcohol. Beautiful nose of dry laurel leaves, eucalyptus and similar spicy notes. Quite harsh mouth but I just rinsed my mouth with water and this may be why. I hear that the malt gives a harder note, and the peat also brings some dryness.
__ Closed Distilleries Imperial Single Malt 1997. 46 °. Malted barley. The Imperial whisky distillery closed 10 years ago, Thierry says. Here is a page with pictures on the abandonned Imperial distillery. Nice refined feel in the mouth. Costs 68 € a bottle.
__ Closed Distilleries Glen Keith 1990. Single Malt Scotch Whisky. The distillery stopped functionning in 2000, it had been created in 1958. Limited edition : bottle # 85. Costs 95 €. That is beautiful... I'd say : power and velvet, with concentration. Goes down well, ideal drink at the end of the day enjoying the fireplace (but a bit pricey for me)... LMdW page on Glen Keith.
__ Closed Distilleries Caledonian 1965. 42,7 °, natural, meaning the whisky hasn't been reduced (diluted). The distillery closed in 1988, it had been founded near Edinburg in 1855 and it was the biggest grain distillery of Scotland. The color of the whisky is a greenish gold. In the mouth, interesting whisky although less obvious than the former, more austere I'd say, a special whisky, with character. I feel something beautiful here even if I'm not expert enough to feel its full qualities. Limited edition, a single cask I guess, 138 bottles of this. Costs 190 €.
__Bruichladdich, The Organic. Malted barley. Organic means barley was grown organicly (certified by biodynamic association). Organic Islay Single Malt Scotch Whisky. Matured in American oak casks, bottled at 46% with Islay spring water. 46 °. Sounds strange, but the nose is very white peppered. The mouth is a bit hot, still. This product arrived here 15 days ago, he says. Costs 58 €.
__ Bruichladdich Laddie Classic Edition_01 (typed this way on the label, believe me, they mean to be progressive...). 100 % bourbon cask. The color here is a gold with green reflections. Blend with 1992 & 2004 whiskies. This bottle, he says, is the classic style of Bruich laddich. In the mouth, it is powerful, velvety and makes you beautifully happy when you swallow. Nice whisky indeed. Costs 54 €.
__ Bruichladdich Infinity  Edition_3.10 (again, typed like that on the label). He says that this whisky sells very fast here. Aged in old casks, the casks having been used for red (Italian) wine in the past. Light bitterness. End of mouth with essences, liquorice. 50 °.
__ Bruichladdich Port Charlotte PC8. Islay Single Malt. Comes from a defunct distillery that they rebuild, Port Charlotte. There seems to be lots of defunct distilleries in Scotland... Something on the peat side, very dry. The color is also gold with green. 60,5 °, that is strong indeed in the mouth. Turpentine side on the nose.
__ Bruichladdich Octomore "Ochdamh mor 12_140" (don't ask me what this means). Octomore is a farm not far from Port Charlotte. 62,5 °. Islay Single Malt Whisky. Nose offers fragrances from the guarrigue in full-blown summer, also some notes of medicine (I know it sounds strange), smells a bit like this gauze that you put on the skin when you burnt yourself (another medicine aroma). But beautiful mouth, even if very special. For connoisseurs, I guess.
__ Royal Lochnagar Highland Single Malt Whisky. Distilled in 1996. One of the smallest distilleries of Scotland, he says. Made in fine old Muscat casks. Color god & green. Very nice whisky, velvet feel and powerful. 40 °. batch # RL/96-9T. Costs 57 €.
__ Lagavulin Double Matured. Distilled in 1993, bottled in 2009, 16 years. A great drink, very nice feel, silk and velvet. 43 °. Costs 79 €. Aged in old Xeres barrels.
__ Caol Ila Islay Single Malt Scotch Whisly, 25 Years. 43 °. He says that at the time, the whisky would be bottled at 73 ° and not under that level through reducing with water like it's done nowadays. This whisky has jusy been released. Bottled at 73 °, it went down naturally to maybe 55 ° and it was reduced further more at bottling. This is a very beautiful refined whisky. Silk-paper feel with something of a thin-grain emeri paper.
I was tipped about Nicholas by Chris Bunting, of Nonjatta, a very important Internet resource on Japanese whiskies. I learnt from Chris a year ago that Nikka had opened its first whisky bar outside Japan, in the Curio Parlor in Paris.
For the Parisians interested in Japanese whisky, LMdW has opened a permanent shop at Odéon (pic on right), LMdW Fine Spirits, where you may have the opportunity to taste some samples.
__ White Oak Akashi, 5 years. 45 %. Color : light yellow. Something floral on the nose. A bit hot in the mouth but that was my first whisky the day I tasted these samples. Dryness at the end.
__ Yamazaki Puncheon 48 %. Same color, just a bit darker. Is it violet that I smell here ? Nice feel when it goes down, with vanilla and wood aromas.
__ Yamazaki 12 years, 43 %. Mouth a bit hot, also with dryness at the end. Color : same yellowish type.
__ Kawasaki 1981/2009 - 28 years. 62,4 %. Color more on the amber type, darker also. Delicious nose of toffee. Very strong whisky, but without any doubt avery nice one. I notice that there's not this dryness feel, it's just intense. That's good !
__ Hanyu 2000/2010 Four of Spades 58,6 %. Nice nose, there's a flower there that I can't find the name of. B. smùelled lmater and found only vanilla. Color : amber, dark. Very onctuous mouth, very beautiful whisky, the high alcohol just translates into something more intense, but there's no burn feel here.
__ Hanyu Mizunara Wood Reserve (no year noted on this sample). That is something !! A thundering and powerful swallowing feel (Whisky is more about swallowing feel or throat feel, by the way). The second mouth is very silky too. Very good indeed.
__ Miyagikyo 10 years. 45 %. Amber color type. Nose : not very expressive, just guessing there's something good in the far. A bit burning in the mouth, though.
__ Hakushu 18 years. 43,5 %. Amber. Nice vanilla nose. I just ate some Russian salo at this point, this may play a role. A bit burning at the end of the mouth.
__ Nikka Yoichi 10 years. 45 %. Amber color. Fresh nose, flowers, smoky things too. Not bad.
__ Nikka Yoichi 12 years 45 %. Amber. Nose quite close to the former. definitely more pleasure to drink here.
__ Nikka Yoichi 15 years 45 %. Nose more on ripe flowers, with a sugary side. There an upward progression here, it's striking to see how a few years can add more vibes on a whisky, considering that it's of course a different cask and history.
__ Nikka Yoichi 1987/2010. # 112814 59 %. Much darker amber color (the darkest of the serie). The nose stands out here, there's oak, but also much more. Wow, take a sip of this and tell me : that's some whisky... I'm happy to have put it last in my tasting order. Very beautiful whisky, probably the best to swallow among these 12 samples, even if several others come close....
Check Julhès' website, the wine/cheese shop holds regular tastings in the back of the shop. this coming december 18th is about Cognac and Armagnac (free entry and tasting).