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June 17 2014

Samurai Beer from Sapporo

To coincide with an NHK drama about Samurai (one of many!), Sapporo have changed the designs of their Sapporo Beer Black Label and Sapporo Mugi and Hop The Gold Daisan cans and added some rather cool Samurai drawings.

Sapporo Samurai Beer

Sapporo Samurai Beer

Sapporo Samurai Daisan

Sapporo Samurai Daisan

The beers are from Sapporo so are pretty drinkable, even the daisan (third-category “fake beer”).

June 16 2014

Father’s Day Sake

My son (with some help from his mum, he’s only 3!) bought me this excellent personalised bottle of sake for Father’s Day this year!

Fathers Day Nihonshu

Fathers Day Sake

It has my name on it in Japanese, and “Thanks Dad” down the side.

Not sure if the nihonshu inside the bottle is any good, but the bottle itself is definitely going to be treasured!

March 4 2014

The Science and Commerce of Whisky : Book Review

I recently received “The Science and Commerce of Whisky“, the new book from Ian Buxton and
Paul S Hughes, to review.

The Science and Commerce of Whisky

The Science and Commerce of Whisky

Now, I got an A in Chemistry ‘A’ level many, many years ago, so I know my inorganic chemistry from my organic chemistry (there’s carbon in one of them!), but it was a long time ago, and would it stretch to the science of whisky making? Hmm…more on that later.

As the books title states, this book is about the science of whisky so a large section of the book is concerned with the chemistry of whisky distilling down to the molecular level, but it also covers the commerce side, discussing branding and marketing of the finished product.

It doesn’t stop there though, there are other topics covered such as the history of whisky, in particular Scottish whisky.

The book is divided into 8 chapters, each covering a specific area of either historical, scientific or commercial relevance to whisky distilling and is extensively researched with references to books (scientific, culinary, poetic and more) as far back as the 1600s and even earlier.

Chapter 1 is Whisky’s Historical Development which gives a good overview of the history of whisky from alchemy (I told you they went far back in history!) up to modern day, with Chapter 2 giving itself over entirely to the history of whisky in Scotland, going fairly in-depth into the companies, distilleries and industry as a whole there.

Things change pace with Chapters 3 and 4, as this is where the science kicks in…

The book is written with whisky industry practitioners and chemistry undergraduates in mind but is also accessible to whisky enthusiasts and laymen like myself.
However some of the chemistry here was way over my head and I spent a lot of these chapters, thinking…”Ok, I’ll take your word for it.“…or…”What do those words even mean?!“.

Maltase liberates β-D-glucose, either from α-1,4-linked chains or terminal glucose residues linked by α-1,6 linkages.

Does it? Oh, right. Cool.

If you’re an undergraduate or actively involved in the distilling process, this I’m sure is
a) understandable and b) very useful to know.
For the rest of us, just go with it, it’ll be worth it in the end.

So Chapter 3 is about the production of New Make Spirit, and Chapter 4 moves on to the casks and the maturation of whisky, which I found particularly interesting as they go into some detail about how casks are made, the maturation and natural colour process and also how the American standard barrels are adapted to hogsheads (larger casks) for the long maturation process.
The barrelling part of whisky production (and wine for that matter) has always fascinated me.

Chapter 5 discusses blending and bottling with Chapter 6 going into detail on branding and marketing of the finished product.

Throughout the book there are tons of fascinating little facts and tit-bits of information, for example, about 70 odd % of the price of a bottle of Scotch Whisky in the UK is actually tax! Which explains why it’s so much cheaper to buy foreign whisky here in Japan where the tax on alcohol is much lower!

The final two chapters discuss “New Whisky Countries” and “Today’s Global Market” which, as can be expected from these authors, contains very detailed tables and statistics on sales and market share for the different kinds of whiskies (blends, American, etc).
There is also some discussion about the new kids on the block – the artisan and craft distillers and their place in the “modern” history of whisky.

All in all, this book is a fascinating and easily accessible study of what goes on “behind the scenes” at distilleries around the world, from creating the whisky through to maturing it, bottling it and perhaps more important than ever these days, the marketing of the product and brand.

One welcome addition however, would have been a glossary for some of the less well-known scientific terms for the non-chemistry-undergraduate whisky enthusiast like myself, but I guess once you start down that road where do you stop – the glossary could end up being pages and pages long.
People who need to know the technical jargon, will probably know already or can look it up, while the rest of us can just be grateful there are people who know this scientific stuff and can capture it in a bottle for us!

The book is published by The Royal Society of Chemistry in the UK and is available from their website http://www.rsc.org/shop/ priced at £27.99.

Disclaimer : I was sent this book free of charge to review but I have received no payment for the review nor am I an affiliate, so won’t receive any percentage of sales for any purchases made after clicking the above link.

February 24 2014

Blue Eden – Underwater Exploration on the iPhone

This post is a bit off-track from booze, but I hope you’ll allow me the digression…

In between drinking and reviewing beers and whisky for this site I also make videogames in my spare time with a friend, and here’s our latest offering.

The game, for iOS, has you joining a school of Powder Blue Surgeonfish as you try to survive in the ocean, season after season.

Each of the four seasons in the year has a unique game type, where you avoid predators, search for food, breed and add more fish to your flock.

The game has an educational slant, with a gallery image section with information about the fish in the game and hopefully it will inspire people to become more aware of not only our oceans and the amazing creatures that live there but also nature in general and our connection to it.

(And now the money bit…)
The game is offered at the low price of $0.99/£0.69 and has NO In-App Purchases, so parents can be rest assured if their children play this they can’t rack up huge bills with Apple!

If you are interested in finding out more about Blue Eden, please visit the App Store
or the Skoobie Games homepage for more information.

There is also a Blue Eden facebook page and you can follow Blue Eden on Twitter .

Thank you!

February 10 2014

Oldest Karuizawa Single Cask Whisky Bottled

Last year (yes, I have been very slack in updating this blog recently!), the amazing people at
Master of Malt sent me what has to be the most incredible free samples ever (and I haven’t even opened and drunk it yet!).

A sample of the Karuizawa 1964 Vintage Single Case #3603!

Karuizawa 1964

This is from one of the very few Karuizawa casks left from the 1960s and one of the oldest Japanese single malt whiskies in history!

Here’s their press release from last year:

Cask #3603 from Karuizawa, filled on 1st September 1964 and bottled on Christmas Eve 2012, is one of the oldest Japanese single malt whiskies in history.

At the time of bottling it was the oldest expression of the now-closed Karuizawa. Only 143 individually-numbered bottles will be available.

Number One Drinks Company acquired the last casks of Karuizawa in August 2011 and this is one of the legendary distillery’s most ancient casks. Matured for over 48 years in a 400 litre sherry oak cask, the whisky lay undisturbed in a traditional dunnage warehouse at Karuizawa before being transferred to Chichibu where it was bottled at cask strength (57.7% abv).

It is naturally coloured and non-chill filtered to retain maximum flavour, mouth feel and integrity. Cask #3603 is one of the very few Karuizawa casks left from the 1960s.

Karuizawa matures magnificently over an extended period, as shown by this bottling.

“Absolutely top drawer whisky and a treat from start to finish. 94/100,”

observed prolific whisky author Dominic Roskrow.

“First, it’s brilliant whisky, and second, it’s ‘different’ whisky. Respect. 95/100,”

added Serge Valentin, a whisky expert and Malt Maniac, who recently named Karuizawa as one of only six Grand Cru Classé single malts in his personal ranking.

“It’s fairly common to compliment mature whiskies on how young and vibrant they are despite their old age. This 1964 Karuizawa is far beyond such platitudes. Only time and a large dose of luck could have conspired to make this; a rare whisky that creates a world of its own and holds it together so beautifully, like an image of nature at its best,”

commented Stefan van Eycken, blogger and editor of Nonjatta, the leading Japanese whisky website.

Karuizawa Whiskey

As befits this extraordinary whisky, the presentation is exceptional. A bespoke, heavyweight version of the traditional Karuizawa bottle is housed in a dark wooden box with a front made of Polish black fossil oak.

“The fossil oak is symbolic: the last part of the name ‘Karuizawa’ means swamp.
This oak is hundreds of years old and has been recovered from ancient Polish swamps,”

said Marcin Miller, Managing Director of Number One Drinks Company.

Each bottle is presented with a specially commissioned book by Dave Broom, the leading authority on Japanese whisky, who states:

“Karuizawa is Japanese whisky unlike any other. It is big, it is bold, it has solidity and weight, it is richly fruited, it revels in its oiliness, it has smoke, but has retained the very Japanese qualities
of heightened aroma and precision of flavour.”

This limited edition of Karuizawa whisky was bottled exclusively for clients of Wealth Solutions.

As they said above, the bottle comes in a gorgeous dark wooden oak box, accompanied by a book detailing the history of the Karuizawa Distillery with some beautiful photographs.

Kuruizawa 1964

The whiskey retails at a staggering £9995.95! And some (maybe just one?) bottles are still available on the Master of Malt website here.

I haven’t yet tried the sample as, well whisky is made for drinking and not hoarding but I feel I need an extra special occasion to crack this one open!

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