Welcome to our second (of three) American series reviews. When they reviewed American whiskies the Whisky Waffle lads panned the big, common bourbons (Jack Daniels, Jim Beam and Maker’s Mark), but had good words for more innovative products. I did a similar comparison last week, Jim Beam vs. Rogue’s Dead Guy, and indeed the craft product out-shined the mass-market product by a fair margin. This week, we line up a bourbon titan the Waffle guys missed, Wild Turkey 101, up against Knob Creek—itself a Jim Beam ‘premium’ product. Both are Kentucky Straight Bourbons, 100-ish proof, and well, we’ll see what’s what.
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.