I don’t have a lot of experience with Japanese whisky, at least that I remember. When I traveled there, my Japanese hosts were always very social and invited me to nights that were longer than I’m used to! I do remember a glass (with too much ice) in a Kabuki-cho club where we all sang karaoke, but whisky was not the usual tipple. My colleagues were more likely to go to a shōchū bar than a whisky bar. But whisky is very popular in Japan.
In my experience, the Japanese are meticulous in execution when they take on a task. Shibui is a reflection of that. The packaging is elegant: completely original, and conveys a modern Eastern esthetic blended with traditional calligraphy. Their website has just enough information–how they constructed the spirit and tasting notes–and is also well-presented. Note that in Japan, there is no law regarding how much time a whisky has to be in cask to be called whisky, and with no age statement on this whisky we can only guess at its age
I’m finally getting my holiday post up, a bit tardy I must say. This one is a real departure for this blog, which thus far has all been Scotch whiskies. The Mars Shinshu Iwai is, as you would guess, from Japan. The style is different from what I’ve been reviewing here, as it is an American ‘whiskey’ style — corn mash, shorter maturation (but one would assume at higher temperatures than Scotch, as typical for American whiskies). Oddly the Iwai folks spell it ‘whisky’ on the bottle like the Scotch.
The importer’s website tells us that the moniker Iwai comes from Kiichiro Iwai, a ‘silent pioneer’ of Japanese whisky-making. With a little digging (thanks to gourmantic.com) we find that Iwai-san ran the Mars distillery years ago. The timeline they give is confusing, as the Mars distiller was licensed in 1949, commenced producing in 1960, but according to Gourmantic, Iwai-san had sent a junior member to Scotland to investigate their whiskies in 1919. At any rate, the distillery is in the Japanese highlands — 800m above sea level, a decent highland for sure.