Color: medium-dark amber
Nose: vanilla, caramel sweetness, coconut, toasted almond & pecan
Taste: clover honey, vanilla caramel, pecans, coconut, orange peel, fresh cut herbs
Finish: warm & long
Right out of the gate, you’ll notice that Kaiyo is not labelled “Japanese whisky” like just about every other Japanese whisky is. Because of the rules governing Japanese whisky, Kaiyo can’t label their product as such. Why?
Well, blame the mizunara oak.
Mizunara oak is legendary. It’s also a major pain to work with. Coopers hate the stuff as it is difficult to force into barrel shapes. And even when it does get coerced into that shape, most mizunara oak barrels will leak. However, the work is worth it as the flavors that mizunara oak imparts are fantastic.
But to Kaiyo’s dismay, the intensity of flavors that the oak imparts diminish over time. So, to combat this, Kaiyo puts their barrels on a boat, allowing the spirit to slosh around inside the barrel. This extracts more flavor from the precious barrel.
And since the booze isn’t aged 100% on Japanese soil, Japanese whisky rules state that it can’t be labelled “Japanese whisky.” [And now you know.]
For the “Let’s not mince words™” statement:
Kaiyo Whisky is complex, sweet, charming, and disarming.
There’s quite a bit going on inside this bottle of Kaiyo Whisky, and if legend holds true, the mizunara oak plays a starring role.
First up, the nose. Luscious vanilla, warm caramel, toasted nuts, mild coconut, and an exotic spice note are all present in the scent. It’s my understanding that the coconut and exotic spice are 100% the result of the mizunara oak barrel. And to me: worth it.
Kaiyo Whisky is a calm, smooth spirit.
The taste mirrors the scent, but adds in a few other goodies in the form of orange notes and fresh cut herbs. We were reminded of fresh cut grass, tarragon, and bell pepper. These were all very mild and minor, but added to the complexity of this spirit.
The finish is long and warm. With the coconut notes, I was expecting a viscous mouthfeel and finish, but that’s not the case. Magical stuff, that oak.
At 86 proof, there is no burn. Kaiyo Whisky is a calm, smooth spirit.
With the costs of Japanese whisky skyrocketing, it’s refreshing to note that this stuff can be found for $60 to $70 locally (meaning: San Francisco Bay Area).
Sipping through a full ounce, it really grew on me. At first, I thought “Huh, sort of Bourbon-y with all this sweetness” but after going through the dram, it’s completely not Bourbon. It’s not Scotch either. Kaiyo Whisky is a treat that can truly call itself Japanese whisky… even if the rules say otherwise.
Final Rating: 94 out of 100