Review : Chivas Regal Mizunara

Oriental spirits have become quite the novelty over the last few years with demand outweighing supply causing retail prices to cross into unchartered territory for what a similar aged spirit ought to be. And with this new found fame, critics and distillers around the globe came knocking in the hopes of better comprehending the art that goes into making these award winning spirits. Mizunara or Japanese Oak soon became the talk of the town as for over a century much of the whisky world had tunnelled vision limiting themselves to European and American barrels and it was only recently that ventures were being made into port wine, rum casks and the likes. Mizunara now gave distillers the chance to infuse a bit of the east into their existing western hotch-potch of flavours.

But Mizunara too came with its own share of disabilities; the wood was rare, making it expensive – a cask costing a few thousands at the very least. To make matters worse, it takes around 200-250 years for the oak to reach full maturity and its porous and crooked physical form makes it difficult to handle and carve out staves – barrels made with the wood are known to leak it’s contents hence making them less suitable for long term maturation.

For lack of a better word, it being ‘inferior’ to its American and European counterparts would mean distillers needed to have a greater comprehension for the wood. This knowledge was critical and well understood amongst local distillers as flavours emanating from the oak were either woody or overpowering if left too long while a lack of adequate exposure prevented flavours from being relayed over to the spirit.

Review Chivas Mizunara

Colin Scott, master blender for Chivas was responsible for concocting this special blend after being inspired during a recent visit to the country. The result, a first for a Scottish distillery to ever having used Japanese Oak in maturing their whiskies (albeit a portion). The bottle keeps to the traditional Chivas form but with a turquoise blue boxing and large Japanese fonts inscribed on the face of the cardboard. The labelling on the bottle makes use of the same hue paired with bits of white along with Mizunara leaves to accommodate the characteristic Chivas labelling. Although the expression was introduced in Japan during the start of October 2013, it’s made inroads to other parts although much later, with some being as recent as the start of this year.

ABV : 40%

Eye: Deep gold to copper – Caramel colouring.

Nose: Starts off with brown sugar, caramel and grain followed by rich dried fruits, raisins, dates and butter. Mild honey notes enveloped in toasted wood with mild bits of grassy peat.
Taste: Initially sweet with caramel, toffee and honey only to be interrupted by barley and a mild sherry influence. Allowing the spirit to breath releases a lot more nuances of grapes, prunes and raisins. There’s definitely some char coming from the wood and spice – most likely peppercorns, sprinkles of cinnamon and shards of cloves.
Finish: Short to medium, Mildly sweet with much of the spice still lingering on.
Dilution :
Floral and sweet, a bit of brine, caramel cupcakes, butter croissant, black pepper, mild chilli and ginger peels.
Adding a few drops of water accentuates several sweet, buttery nuances; but having said that adding too much could dilute the whisky with the palate taking most of the beating.
The nose is sprinkled with spice, grapes and dried fruits – the hero being the European sherry casks. The palate though is a different story – one directional to a large extent that could have been more cohesive if it were allowed to mature a bit longer. It doesn’t offer much bang considering some of its contents come from the Japanese oak; in all likelihood you could mistake it for its 12 YO sibling, unless you were told what you were sipping – the only difference being an increased spice level. I am surprised that they hadn’t released this expression at a higher proof, which might have delivered a different outcome.
At $100 AUD a pop (duty free – $70) personally I don’t find the price to be justified; rather an outcome of the Chivas branding and the longing for something Japanese. You would much rather spend the money on something more authentic, justifying both your taste buds and the hard earned money being spent.

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