What you need to know
- Do you like old, sherried, Japanese whisky?
- The Whisky Exchange has opened their ballot to another edition of Karuizawa Geishas
- The Ruby Geisha Karuizawa 34 Year Old Cask #3668 comes in at 58.5% ABV and is matured in a single sherry butt. Priced at £18,000. It is said to have a rich and complex character with layers of sherry-oak and spice.
- The Ruby Geisha Karuizawa 38 Year Old Cask #7582 comes in at 54.1% ABV and is also matured in a single sherry butt. Priced at £20,000. It is said to have a careful balance of sweet and savoury notes, with undertones of dark oak and spice.
- Close to a decade after Karuizawa Distillery was mothballed, its juice remains high sought-after and have been fetching sky-high valuations at auctions and whisky stores. We wouldn’t be surprised if the price of this continues to climb in the secondary market!
- Ballot closes on the 21st September (Tuesday) so move fast if this is your thing!
Amongst Japan’s “lost” distilleries (i.e. mothballed distilleries), single malt from Karuizawa Distillery is one of the most popular and sought after collector’s items. 9 years after it has shut its doors, the liquid continues to be highly sought after around the world and each bottle fetches atrocious valuations at auctions and whisky stores.
Karuizawa was located at Miyota, a town on the southern side of an active volcano, Mt. Asama, in Nagano Prefecture, Japan. Established in 1955, the distillery sourced its barley from Scotland and produced a rich and powerful single malt whisky often used in blends. Karuizawas are often likened to sherried Scotch whisky by many.
Unfortunately, due to lack in demand for such rich and robust-tasting whiskies in Japan (the Japanese palate prefers light and floral whiskies as opposed to strong gritty ones) and the high cost of production made its holding company, Kirin, decide that it wasn’t making business sense to keep Karuizawa operational. The distillery operated for about 56 years before shutting its doors in 2012 and being DEMOLISHED in 2016. (Good lord, the corporate folks at Kirin seemed to have no sentimentality!)
Before you shed your whisky lovers’ tears, you may want to note that the spirit of Karuizawa somewhat lives on in a new Japanese distillery by the name of Shizuoka. When Karuizawa shut down, Shizuoka purchased their pot stills and refurbished them for further use in their distillery. To get a sense of how a Karuizawa would taste if the distillery were to be re-commissioned today, try Shizuioka’s Prologue K single malt if you can afford to do so. So much hype surrounds Shizuoka because they managed to salvage distilling equipment from Karuizawa.
What makes Karuizawa popular? Everything that made it unpopular amongst the general market in 2012! Allowing drinkers to find rich, sherried Scotch-like character in a Japanese whisky continues to make Karuizawa so popular today. Each bottle of Karuizawa is truly a top-class collector's item. If I were lucky enough to get a bottle on hand, I’m passing it down as a family heirloom.
TWE’s New Ruby Karuizawa Geishas
Now, The Whisky Exchange (TWE) has been releasing exclusive and highly limited bottles of Karuizawa single malt under the Karuizawa Geishas Series for several years now. The labels feature geisha imagery, as a reference to their artistry as a product of a bygone era. Supposedly, each label represents different aspects of what it means to be a geisha and the skills and fortitude required to become one.
A few days ago, TWE has announced yet another set of really old Japanese single malts under its Karuizawa Geishas collection.
The Karuizawa 34 Year Old Cask #3668 comes in at 58.5% ABV and is matured in a single sherry butt. It is said to have a rich and complex character with layers of sherry-oak and spice. Each bottle would be sold at £18,000 at TWE’s website.
The Karuizawa 38 Year Old Cask #7582 comes in at 54.1% ABV and is also matured in a single sherry butt. It is said to have a careful balance of sweet and savoury notes, with undertones of dark oak and spice. Each bottle would be sold at £20,000 at TWE’s website.
Due to the limited number of bottles available, both bottles would only be sold by ballot, which closes on 21stSeptember (Tuesday)!
A whisky aged for 30 years is a rare and special thing. Over this length of time the cask will have imparted all sorts of character and depth, and the resulting whiskies have the potential to carry very smooth textures and fine flavours.
These 30 year old Karuizawa represent some of the finest tipples from the mothballed distillery of yesteryear, matured in the distillery’s signature ex-sherry cask style.
It also isn’t often you see a really old whisky at such high alcohol concentrations.
In good Karuizawa fashion, the price tag is extortionate, just as it has always been for other bottles of Karuizawa at auctions.
Both have been distilled and matured in the same style with very comparable ages (relatively so). If you could afford them, would you even bother getting both? Perhaps the only reason to get both is just to complete your collection.