The ever-evolving world of whisky has seen experimentation go in all sorts of directions–from using unconventional casks for maturation, to passing the baton to master craftsmen of different alcohols.
One such experimental whisky, hails from Japan. Akashi whisky is known as the only whisky in the world that is made by a Toji, a grandmaster in the art of sake making, by integrating sake-making techniques into the whisky-making process.
The decision to employ a Toji to create Akashi whisky at White Oak distillery, however, was more of a necessity than a random idea.
Founded in 1888 on the site of Eigashima in the city of Akashi, White Oak distillery was the first in Japan to obtain a license to distilled spirits in 1919 and became the first to distil whisky in the country almost 60 years later in 1984. Prior to that, the distillery’s main focus was on traditional spirits for the local market, which sake was a large part of.
By the ’80s, the popularity of whisky internationally had grown so much that it was impossible for White Oak not to join the competition. So their Toji set out to invent a new methodology that would incorporate his knowledge in sake-making.
Although there are many Akashi whiskies to analyse, let us zoom in on the Akashi Red Blended Malt & Grain (aka Akashi Red Blended Whisky).
Akashi Red is reserved in a Japanese Shochu cask (American Oak) for 3 years, then aged in an ex-bourbon cask before finishing in an ex-sherry cask for 2 years. The pot still used is also much smaller to get lesser volumes of undesired (fusel) alcohol through higher angel share (7% evaporation) in the final distillate.
Only a small batch of the distillery’s output is whisky as its focus is still on sake and shochu. Located near the sea, and the city of Kobe, the distillery enjoys a mild and stable climate which lends a hand in helping the whiskies mature faster than in colder environments.
The result is a light and fruity whisky (40% ABV) with notes of peach, almond and grape. Expect slight hints of spice and vanilla at the end of each sip. Its characteristics can blend with a variety of food, making Akashi Red a flexible go-to whisky for dinner.
As far as experimental whiskies go, Akashi Red is worth a try if you want a break from your usual brands.