Type: Single Malt Japanese Whisky
Ageing barrels: White oak
Added coloring: No
Owner: Matsui Shuzo
Average price: € 150.00
Official website: matsuiwhisky.com
Founded in 1914, Matsui has always been in the business of sake and shochu.
In 2016, right during the boom in Japanese spirits and the disappearance of bottles with declared vintages from Nikka and other famous producers, Matsui suddenly introduced an intriguing 18-year-old under the Kurayoshi label. This aroused more or less everyone’s suspicions, and in the end it seems that Matsui imports whisky from Scotland, probably already aged, and that only the bottling is done locally with a small addition of local distillate in order to fit in with the appeal of the ‘Made in Nippon’ brand.
After all, even the first Kurayoshi label shamelessly copied Suntory’s famous Yamazaki, while these labels in The Matsui line, dedicated to Japanese artistic icons, are typically designed for a foreign audience.
If you are interested in this controversy, you can find more information in this article by Whisky Richard, and on page 16 of Steven Van Eycken’s Whisky Rising, the bible of Japanese whiskies published in 2017.
Now it seems that Matsui has actually set up a new distillery in Tottori, with an accompanying marketing campaign about the pristine environment of Mount Daisen and the marine influence of the Sea of Japan.
For now, I’ll just taste this The Peated, which, according to the website, is said to be “distilled in the natural environment of Tottori, aged in white oak barrels and brought to proof with spring water from Mount Daisen.” Marketing hype aside, the important information is that this whisky would actually be part of the new NAS production that began in 2017… meaning that it would be aged for not even two years since it was released in 2019.
Moreover, it’s not clear whether the casks are virgin or used, toasted or not.
To the eye it clearly appears uncoloured given the straw yellow colour.
I don’t believe at all that it’s entirely distilled in Tottori, but in fact the nose is young: a cereal note immediately stands out, then a bit of smokiness and a slight minerality. The peat, however, is minimal, almost cold, more from ash than from phenolic drive. There are some aromatic herbs, some citrus jelly, but for the rest there is just a lot of vanilla and an almost plastic scent.
In the mouth it definitely changes tone and takes on more character: you can hear the phenolic, there is a definite mineral uprightness, and several interesting herbaceous notes like rosemary and lemongrass.
The finish is medium of white pepper, ginger, and again peat, quite savoury and ashy.
Frankly, I find it difficult to evaluate this whisky.
If I had tasted it blind I would probably have given it a good rating, at least if I had to decide primarily on the basis of taste (as indeed happened at recent international events in San Francisco and Tokyo that awarded other Matsui labels, not to mention the Whisky Advocate review at the bottom of the article, where it’s placed 19th of the best releases of 2019).
For me it’s certainly not worth the €100 or so they charge for the bottle.