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Sunday, 27 March 2011

Beauty Is In The Eye Of The Beholder

If you come over to my house, you’ll not only see the aforementioned art hanging on the walls, but you’ll find a fair few objects adorning my sideboards and shelves. Some artefacts I consider beautiful; take for instance my vintage Ricard jug. One of the most beautiful objects, found for mere pence in a local charity shop. And some, memorable; a full Oxford United subbeuteo team from the mid-1990’s, which take me right back to certain moments of my youth.

One new addition to my mantelpiece as of last week is an item that, for me, fulfils two main roles:

The first is utter beauty. We’ve lauded the Japanese on this site before for their fantastic bottles. Take the squared off, stubby Nikka From The Barrel. Not only is the contents stunning, but so is the casing. And then there is the utilitarian, simplicity of the Karuizawa bottlings (from No.1 Drinks). Wax dipped, with the most stunning, simple labels and boxes I have come across. It’s not just a whisky; it’s art. And this new addition is no expectation.

The second, is that of a reminder. For the bottle in question is indeed a Japanese whisky. Yoichi, to be precise. Prompted by the appalling recent disaster in Japan, I wanted to show some support so, along with donating some money to the cause (which you can also do here) I bought myself a bottle that I have wanted to try for a while now. Not only do you get a wonderful, beautiful item but every time I glance at it, glistening away in my living room prompts me to fire up a prayer for the people of Japan, for their future and for a speedy recovery.

On to the whisky itself: I don’t know much about it. In fact, I don’t really know anything about it, aside from the fact it is made at the Yoichi Distillery, based on the Northern Island of Hokkaido which opened in 1934, and that it is 43% ABV. Oh, and a No Age Statement. Aside from that, na-da. All the details, except for the distillery and the ABV on the bottle are written in Japanese. Good job the bottle is do damn pretty... let’s have a dram of this stuff, then...

Yoichi – White Label – NAS – 43% ABV – 500ml

Nose: A lovely level of peat smoke wafts from the glass. We’ve become so used to the “who can make the most peated whisky” competition on Islay, that to encounter a dram with a good hit of smoke, bold but not too over powering, is a real joy. Behind the smoke is some youthful, spirit notes with hint of blackcurrant and liquorice and some gin-style tones.

Palate: The initial hit is youthful; this really isn’t an old base whisky (I’d guess 5 – 7 years old) and the result is a little aggressive but once it subsides, the peat takes over for the middle section and this is joined by the blackcurrants from the nose. Some wood spices develop with time and bbq notes at the death.

Finish: The smoke wafts through with some cardamom, fennel and honey notes. A hint of sweet coffee right at the death.

Overall: At around about £30 a bottle, this is a very solid investment. Just to give some contexts, I’ve now got a glass of Laphroaig Quarter Cask poured next to it. In comparison, the QC has a bigger hit of peat, but is also rounder and more balanced in its wood tones. Not the best comparison in the world, granted, but it’s what is in my cabinet to use.

And there in, lies the key. This bottle of Yoichi is not in my cabinet; it is sat alongside some of my most treasure possessions on my mantelpiece because it is a beautiful piece of design. Unlike the Nikka From The Barrel, the contents doesn't match up quite as well to the aesthetic, but it is well worth a try and, in the same moment, remind yourself to hold the country of Japan in your heart for just a moment; to hope for their future, for their people, for their well-being.