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Japan Kaiyo Distillery

Kaiyo The Signature Whisky

Review of the Kaiyo Signature, aged three months on a cargo ship sailing in the Indian Ocean

Origin: Japan
Type: Teaspooned Malt Japanese Whisky
Gradation: 43%ABV
Ageing barrels: Mizunara and three months on a cargo ship sailing in the Indian Ocean
Chillfiltered: No
Added coloring: No
Owner: Kaiyo Distillery
Average price: € 60.00
Official website: kaiyowhisky.com
Vote: 78/100

Today I’m talking about a strange outsider among the usually complacent Japanese whiskies.
Kaiyo is the brainchild of Jeff Karlovitch, a long-time master blender for Bunnahabhain and more recently for the Lost Distillery experiment. Jeff buys the white spirits in Japan and is responsible for blending and ageing them.
This black label is the first product unveiled in 2018 and is a double-distilled teaspooned malt: that is, almost all of the starting distillate comes from a certain distillery, except for a very small portion. This practice is a way of preventing certain bottlers from using the name of a distillery for their product to their advantage (or perhaps disadvantage). Jeff then decided to use expensive Japanese oak barrels for ageing.

We’ve already talked about it in the article on the excellent Glendalough 12yo Mizunara Oak Finish, and you can find a lot more information on the official Kaiyo website.
Interestingly, Jeff’s relationship with mizunara barrels is one of love and hate: delicate, with high levels of evaporation (if not loss), and complex to handle with a few years of ageing. These difficulties pushed him towards a daring yet ingenious experiment inspired by what happened centuries ago: shipping the barrels by cargo ship on a long oceanic voyage to take advantage of wave motion and positively affect the timing of aging and integration. This idea also gave rise to its name: Kaiyo means “ocean” in Japanese.
Let’s see if this is just a marketing stunt or if there is something concrete to appreciate.

It has a warm, natural golden yellow hue.
The nose immediately offers a strong note of golden apple, which with a little aeration gives way to more ethereal notes of cedar wood, orange peel and sealing wax. The effect of mizunara oak is also very present, with a typical vanilla outline that accompanies the rest.
On the palate it turns into something quite unexpected: hints of olive brine and dried meat give it a nice meatiness, before developing an almost smoky note of black tea with bergamot that is quite elegant.
Unfortunately, the finish arrives all too soon with a certain disjointed herbiness that denotes the product’s youth.

A whisky that may not be perfect, but is very original.
Whether you are a fan of Japanese whiskies or looking for something different, this Kaiyo could definitely be for you. I would also like to warn you that the range has meanwhile become much more articulated, with a cask strength version of this base, a 7 year old single barrel and two limited releases, one peated and one in Sherry cask.
Happy discoveries!

Other perspectives:
Drink Hacker

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