East-West fusion is very much in vogue these days and among the more unusual – Peruvian-Japanese? (not as anomalous as you might think) – the idea of a whisky fusion might seem a step too far. But not so, given the talents of producers worldwide, even for those purists who might balk at anything other than Scotland’s finest. After all, wasn’t it Suntory who won the World’s Best Whisky in last year’s awards?
Arguably, then, it may only have been a matter of time that the two most renowned whisky producers in the world should combine their mutually-respected talents to collaborate on a world first; a fusion of Islay and Japanese craftsmanship. And one muggy August evening these two redoubtable artists met on the Greenwich Meridian, the point where west and eastern hemisphere’s meet, to launch the combined fruits of their labours.
For it was at the Greenwich Royal Observatory that Bowmore, arguably the finest of Islay’s distillers – and a personal favourite – announced the launch of the Bowmore Mizunara Cask Finish, the first ever Islay Single Malt Scotch Whisky to be finished in hand-crafted Japanese Mizunara oak casks.
It is eventful in many ways and is sure to enter whisky lore. For the first time in history, precious handcrafted Mizunara oak casks have left Japan’s shores, embarking on the 6,000 mile journey across two oceans, to Islay, and now rest in the cool, dark, damp cellars of Bowmore’s legendary No.1 vaults. This ‘first’ is not to be sniffed at. Mizunara oak takes some 300 years to reach maturity when the Suntory coopers then harvest the trees for their barrels, hand-crafting them in secret, by a method known only to a select few.
This limited-edition release represents one of the first occasions in which Japanese distillers have spared their precious Mizunara casks for a whisky outside of Japan. Bowmore was chosen due to its long and proven history of innovation and craftsmanship reflecting the same skills and values that have been passed down from generation to generation to create the Mizunara oak casks. These casks have tamed Bowmore’s signature single malt, calming its tempestuous temperament of peat smoke and spice, enhancing its vanilla undertones and embellishing its citrus notes. Japanese elegance has met Scottish passion to create something rather special.
And how is it? It’s a lively little number indeed. The most delectable amber honey colour; on the nose it’s bright and fiery, cedar wood sharpness tangs in the nostrils before soothing vanilla notes carry through onto the palette, and its delightful vibrant complexity comes to the fore from the mizunara that gives Japanese whisky its characteristic spicy, mellow taste of sweet vanilla, cedar wood, exotic mango and honey. Add this to Bowmore’s signature subtle peatiness and you have a very special expression indeed. It’s nothing short of poetry.
To give it tribute, one could have it with sake-infused haggis, or a Scottish salmon rice paper roll, or a ginger-seared scallop with sesame and soy – you get the idea – but, no, this is a single malt unlike any other and is best savoured on its own. Perhaps by fireside, a tartan blanket and a book of haiku to hand.
Set for global release on 1 September 2015, and with only 2000 bottles produced, the limited edition Bowmore Mizunara Cask Finish is priced at £650 and will be available through specialist retailers including Harrods, Selfridges, The Whisky Exchange and The Whisky Shop. For more information visit www.bowmore.com.