Japanese oak - quercus mongolia – mizunara – all one and the same thing. This type of wood is indigenous to Japan, but also grows in China, Korea and (perhaps unsurprisingly given the name) Mongolia. Shorter and less tightly grained than American oak (quercus alba), mizunara is both expensive and sought after. It is expensive because of its somewhat limited supply – it is sought after, not only for its uses within the Japanese whisky industry, but also for its proprieties as a high-quality material for furniture construction. In Japan, mizunara oak is not simply purchased, ready for coopering, it is auctioned – whisky houses and furniture producers all bidding against each other to purchase this valuable resource.
Method and Madness’s 1988 33 year old Japanese Mizunara Oak Cask release is rather the marque bottle from their trypich of Japanese-inspired experimental whiskies. However, sadly, I really can’t see many of the 252 bottles actually being opened. At a cool €3,000 this expression with its exceptionally heavy (beautifully made) box feels very much like the display-piece whisky that Irish producers have started to foist onto the market with increasing frequency. Who can really blame them – there’s more than an equivalent number of Scotch releases designed in exactly the same fashion. And yet, it’s still rathe the shame – as the whiskey itself is nothing less than glorious.
The release was initially matured in ex-bourbon for 30 years before being finished in mizunara for an additional 3 years. Bottled at a higher ABV (52.8%) than the two NAS releases within this Japanese collection – the 33 year old mizunara Method and Madness is available now in Ireland, France, UK, USA and global travel retail.
Nose: Decidedly expressive with bright, sweet and polished fruitiness – orange oils, guava, lemon gel and mango slices. Deeper, there’s spent coffee grounds, Battenburg cake (a really good one), lemon sponge and honed, lacquered oak. Resting is worthwhile here – offering cashews, foamy latte and suede leather satchels. The addition of water results in the distinctive tang of pot still spices – particularly nutmeg - whilst also revealing tempered chocolate, warmed layer cake and high-grade vanish.
Taste: A notably textural arrival with the weight of the spirit transferred into the palate through a selection of oils and waxes. Mandarins, peach bonbons and sharp lime juice sit alongside candy sugars, guava and fruit cocktail syrup. Tutti fruit cream joins vanilla-imbued creme patisserie whilst floral oils provide a delicate elevation. Reduction highlights orange – clementine and nectarine – together with cigar wrappers and stroopwafel.
Finish: Long with golden tobacco, and fading bright, zesty fruit sugars.
A glorious expression of pot still whisky that makes me smile from start through to finish. Pitch perfect balance meets a vibrant fruitiness that’s only possibly from longer maturation periods. Of the three new Method and Madness ‘Japanese-themed’ whiskies – this is the one with the most restrained secondary cask influence. And that’s likely why it’s going to be awarded with not just the best score of the bunch – but with a notably high Dramble rating that marks it out within the upper echelons of whisky (no matter the country or style). Exquisite maturation and blending – and therefore an incredible shame that nigh on all these bottles will be kept as exceedingly expensive paperweights. Hauntingly beautiful.
Review sample provided by Irish Distillers