Kanosuke 2018, 4 Years Old, Peated Malt Single Cask #19030, Bottled For Aloha Whisky Bar 4th Anniversary
Aloha Whisky Bar in Ikebukuro, Tokyo, Japan, is a well-beloved bar, and as is always the case, it is the bartender that makes the bar, not the ambience nor the extravagance of the shelf.
Bartenders play a pivotal role in not just expanding their guest's vocabulary and palate, but also in providing their guest a vital third place where they can feel at ease, and time almost seems to not matter - they're play the role of drinking companion, friend, and confidantes. Their importance simply cannot be overstated.
Yet perhaps more unromantically, they also play the role of gatekeepers, selecting on behalf of guests quality spirits - after all they are incentivised to do so, with only so much space on the backbar, and with the knowledge that each guest can only imbibe in so much. It is therefore the name of the game to secure for their guests only the best. And while that may seem easy - that could not be further from the truth. A bartender's best depends on the strength of his relationships with distillers, bottlers, retailers, other bars, and even sometimes having to employ the help of their guests.
David Tsujimoto of the world famous Aloha Whisky Bar in Ikebukuro, Tokyo, Japan. (Image Source: Whisky Magazine Japan, Stefan van Eycken)
If you thought that all they had to do was make a quick stopover at the local bottle shop, you'd be absolutely wrong. Getting the best bottlers ain't easy - more often than not, these expressions hold a rarity that goes beyond price. You couldn't get the stuff even if you were willing to pay a fortune for it.
And even after all of that, they've still got to find a way to stand out and ensure that the drinking-sphere knows about it - after all, what good is a Ferrari behind closed doors?
Thus a great bartender is truly one in a million - call them the Alex Ferguson of football, the Phil Jackson of the NBA, or the Toto Wolff of F1. Whatever they've got, David Tsujimoto, or Tsujimoto-san if we're going to be formal, is surely cut from the same cloth. Through him, Aloha Whisky Bar has become a bastion for what is sure to be a legendary bar in the making.
Kanosuke Distillery sits by the sea in Kagoshima.
Today we've got with us a single cask of peated Kanosuke Japanese single malt - the first known single cask of its kind, from what is arguably the hottest Japanese distillery right now! Once again this underscores how great a bartender David is in his ability to secure incredible expressions for his guests.
With all that Aloha Whisky Bar has achieved - a reputation that is far and wide - it's hard to believe that the bar helmed by Tsujimoto-san is only 4 years old!
And thus this Kanosuke expression was bottled in celebration of Aloha Whisky Bar's 4th Anniversary!
As you'll quickly spot on the label - a Kanpachi, also known as a Kahala, or an Amberjack. If you're a fan of Aloha Whisky Bar's handpicked bottlings, you'll quickly guess that this is an ode to David's two homes - Hawaii and Japan, this is as the fish inhabits both the waters of Hawaii and more specifically Kagoshima, where Kanosuke Distillery is at. The exact artwork used for the label comes from Tracy Katano, a friend of David's, and is a style known as Gyotaku art.
To many more amazing years of Aloha Whisky Bar!
Now, without further ado, let's get to it!
Kanosuke 2018, 4 Years Old, Peated Malt Single Cask #19030, Bottled For Aloha Whisky Bar 4th Anniversary - Review
Aroma: Big aromatic cold smoke, with a base of oolong tea leaves and honey. There’s a little bit of eucalyptus here as well, finally some raw barley grist.
Taste: Really rounded with a mix of cold ash, herbal eucalyptus and sweet honey. There’s lots of depth here - and then more on oolong tea.
Finish: A light bit of salinity here, backed up by more cold ash. This fades out into more on honey and vanilla cream.
A very interesting and unique take on Kanosuke - here instead of the usual custard and cinnamon, I found more herbal and tea notes that I hadn’t gotten from Kanosuke before. Nonetheless what’s consistent here with Kanosuke’s signature profile is the depth of the flavours on the palate - there’s this incredibly deep note of tea and honey that resides beneath the ashiness.
Also, I should say that one thing that Kanosuke talked about early when it was first putting out its early expressions, was the mention of how the salinity from the seabreeze in the surrounding seafront (Kanosuke sits by Fukiagehama, Japan's longest sand beach) would permeate its maturing casks and give its expressions a slight saltiness. I never quite seemed to find it in the Kanosuke expressions thus far, yet this was probably the first time I distinctively experienced it and I have to say, it really adds another dimension to Kanosuke's whiskies that we've not quite seen thus far.