Added colouring: Yes
Owner: Kyoto Shuzo Co.
Official website: kyotoshuzo.com
Until 1868, Kyoto was the capital of Japan, and with its thousand-year history as the beating heart of the country, it gave rise to many of its traditions, linked to Japanese culture and religion.
And in July 2020, the Kyoto Shuzo company (linked in a double-tie with Matsui Shuzo, owner of the Matsui brand) obtained the distillation licence, bringing whisky production to the prefecture for the first time, specifically to Kyotanba-cho, near the Yura river. Two stills, production of gin as well, whisky currently intent on resting on site with a wide temperature range between day and night, promising ‘rapid ageing of the distillate’.
Three bottlings were released in 2021, featuring a special fabric label, nishijin-ori, used for making traditional clothes, of which the area is one of the nation’s largest producers.
Two blends of grain and one malt, the origin of which is not made explicit but which, given the extreme youth of the distillery, are certainly made with third-party (not necessarily Japanese) whiskies, obviously without declaration of age.
The Kyoto Aka-Obi (Red Belt)
Type: Blended Whisky
Ageing casks: –
Average price: € 78.00
A blend of malts and grains, some imported, whose ageing casks are unknown, is the basic product of the triptych, which is mainly intended for mixology.
The nose is rather light, aromas suspended between sweet and vegetal with a mix of vanilla, almonds, wet cereals, a faint scent of solvent and a hint of nutmeg and cinnamon. Over time, the wood spices gain more consistency to the detriment of the sweeter aromatic compartment, with the vegetal part gaining more body. Harmless.
The palate begins rather bitterly, with an initially loaded solvent part that soon loses incisiveness, and the triumph of cereal and malty notes. Little room for subtlety, with a light body in which hints of vanilla peep out among spices, nuts and wood.
The finish is rather dry and quite short, bitter and spicy, with herbaceous notes with slight vanilla veins.
Definitely more suitable for (expensive) cocktails than for drinking on its own, it doesn’t offer any particular attention span and is quickly forgotten. Mind you, it’s not ‘bad’ but simply negligible.
The Kyoto Kuro-Obi (Black Belt)
Type: Blended Whisky
Ageing casks: Virgin and ex-Bourbon
Average price: € 120.00
Another blend of whiskies of various origins (foreign and domestic), with the grain part made according to bourbon standards with ageing in virgin casks, then combined with the malts to finish in ex-Bourbon casks.
The nose is nice and spicy, with a nature very close to that of rye rather than bourbon: salted caramel, nutmeg galore, molasses, macadamia. The initial buoyancy tends to fade over time, allowing aspects of baked apple, very ripe banana and malt cream to emerge, with a slight hint of fatty cheese and the wood spices always very present. Sweet but not cloying.
In the mouth, the spicy component remains intense but not predominant, leaving room for roasted cane sugar, fruit (apple, pineapple, banana, chinotto), vegetable notes and again the malt, which gives warmth and body. Nuts and caramel accompany in the background, and over time the vegetal part tends to raise the tone with a bitter streak of rhubarb and cinchona
The finish is quite long and dry, where the vegetal notes are punctuated by spices, brown sugar, nuts and malt.
A whisky that starts off very interesting and lively but gets lost in length, disbanding that balance of flavours held well especially on the nose. The alcohol content certainly helps, but it’s perhaps too young to be really incisive.
The Kyoto Murasaki-Obi (Purple Belt)
Type: Malt Whisky
Ageing casks: –
Average price: € 140.00
It is labelled ‘Malt Whisky’, but since it cannot contain their own distillate, it’s surely made from third-party whisky, probably Matsui, the maturation type of which is not stated anyway. Not being defined as blended, it is to be assumed to be a single malt.
The nose opens pleasantly sweet and floral, the notes are delicate but far from ethereal with vanilla, caramel, calico, pineapple, meringue and white chocolate. The list I have poured out would seem to contradict me, but the aromas are traversed by a herbaceous and spicy vein (nutmeg, cinnamon) that softens their impact, with a faint but very subtle thread of smoke in the background. Over time, a note of honey also appears, becoming almost waxy. Very pleasant.
On the palate, the smoke becomes more present, especially at the beginning, although it remains little more than a hint, just enough to give depth to a full-bodied malt that takes up the olfactory evocations and their balance, with just a greater incisiveness of the herbaceous components. Very drinkable, thanks also to a saline hint that emerges after the first few sips and a slight peppiness especially along the length.
The finish is not very long, where saline and smoky hints frame spices, fruit and vanilla visions.
Definitely the most structured and interesting of the three, with an easy drinkability that may not be overwhelming but is certainly enjoyable.