Like so many Japanese whiskies that have come to the market in recent years, Kaiyo remains an enigma. It tastes delicious, there is a tantalizing background story to the brand, but the level of detail a whisky geek desires always seem in short supply. No matter, ultimately when the price is right and the whisky tastes great, we are here to pull the trigger. The two casks are similar in their story, but very different in the final profile. Both are Japanese in origin, presumably teaspooned malt from the same source. They were placed into Mizunara oak for nearly 7.5 years and then each made Kaiyo's hallmark Ocean voyage. The gentle rocking, salt air, temperature and humidity changes are all a part of the whisky's story. Once they disembarked from their ship their stories diverge. Cask #541 sees a year long finishing in a refill hogshead barrel. This adds a bit of complexity to the profile yet preserves the Mizunara oak as the defining characteristic. It's a masterclass in Mizunara. Over time in glass you can pick out a wide array of sweet tropical notes ranging from juicy fruits to toasty coconut and a cabinet full of exotic spices. At 56% ABV and unchillfiltered, there is power, weight, and texture to bolster what is otherwise an elegant and complex dram.
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By: Andrew Whiteley
K&L Staff Member
The first selection ever of a Kaiyo single cask. After 7.4 years in Mizunara oak, this beauty was transferred to a 2nd fill hogshead for a little mellowing. It’s chockablock full of vanilla, coconut, honey and sandalwood. The stylistic preference in Japan for whiskies that are balanced and nuanced is clearly present, but this is not a shy malt. The barley shines from the get go, but add a little water and it explodes. At 56% ABV it’s a robust and full throttle whiskey that screams of its time in Mizunara with its bold and spicy wood profile.
By: David Othenin-Girard
K&L Staff Member
The enigmatic and opaque Kaiyo whisky has become a staple on our shelves. It does a lot of things right in the very complicated Japanese Whisky genre while maybe skirting some of the most obvious pitfalls. And I still have no information about what is actually in these bottles, but we can assume that these have been aged in Japanese Mizunara and are likely sourced from malt distilled in Northern Japan (Hokkaido & Sendai). And while these distilleries are some of the world's finest, it is clearly the barrel who is the star of the show here. Interestingly, the two barrels we purchased (541 & 543) are pretty different despite having the same proof and specs on the bottle. This cask is the most quintessential expression of the flavors I'd expect from Mizunara. The nose is tight at first and needs a drop or two of water to open up. Now we get tons of sandalwood, ceremonial incense, plum wine, coconut husk. On the palate, tons of red cherry and big spice - cinnamon, clove, nutmeg etc. It's long bold and peppery. This one is really pretty intense designed for those who like more intense flavors. Adding water doesn't necessarily diminish that but adds some depth and sweetness.
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