European Novelty. Full Maturation in a Mizunara Cask
The German Distillery St. Kilian in Rüdenau, Lower Frankonia, launched an exclusive whisky rarity: a single malt whisky fully matured in a single virgin Mizunara oak cask.
Common in several regions of Japan, Mizunara oak is among the rarest and most expensive wood used to mature whisky. The Japanese oak for this 225-litre, medium toasted single cask is about 250 years old. It was harvested in the forests of the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido.
"Mizunara or Japanese oak (Quercus mongolica) is growing across Japan, but in the North of Japan (Hokkaido) the tree grows slower results with a tighter annual ring which is suitable for producing a barrel.
The wood delivers some particular taste on the spirits characterized as sandalwood and a much stronger coconut aroma than any oak especially when it interacts with whisky after a long time aging."
Source Ariake Sangyo
Experienced coopers of Ariake Sangyo carefully set up the casks. The treatment of the rare wood, especially of the staves, is very difficult to handle and only a few coopers are able to set the casks together. The cask staves and the heads were completely made of Mizunara oak.
St Kilian Distillers imported four medium toasted virgin casks directly by plane from Japan in August 2019.
Photos Courtesy of St. Kilian Distillers
CTO and Master Blender Mario Rudolf:
The Mizunara oak is known for its unique aromas of sandalwood, oriental spices and exotic fruits,
which give the whisky distinctive characterful aromas.
This masterpiece of whisky craftsmanship reflects the synergy of Japanese finesse with German distilling art in Scottish pot stills. The exceptional Single Malt promises an incomparable taste as well as an exquisite enjoyment experience for discerning connoisseurs.
A more than delighted Managing Director Philipp Trützler says.:
"We are very proud to be able to present this exclusive whisky rarity made from Mizunara oak...
...According to our research, this is the first non-Japanese single malt whisky to be matured in a single, fresh, unoccupied Mizunara oak cask.
A true treasure for whisky lovers and collectors alike."
The result of the maturation provides a unique taste of ripe fruit and exotic melon paired with warming oak notes, oriental spices, and fragrant sandalwood aromas.
The Angels' Share of cask no.3886 was 4.7% of the initial content which is much higher than normal. The age of the single malt is three years old plus a few months.
"The cask filling strength was lower than regular...at 55.2 % abv as we intended to generate more sweetness in the whisky,"
Mario Rudolf reports.
St Kilian's EXCEPTIONAL MIZUNARA
The exceptional Mizunara single cask bottling at natural cask strength of 55.1% abv was limited to 300 bottles.
The Exceptional Bottling of Mizunara is the first of a new St Kilian range which will present further exceptional casks to the customer. The series will only be open for thematic exclusive Single Malts which have matured in one of the 371 different cask types in the nearby St Kilian Bunker City.
The Mizunara specialty whisky is presented in a printed 0.5 litre pot-still shaped glass bottle with noble packaging which will make for the uniqueness of the St Kilian product.
"After numerous tastings of bottlings with Mizunara finish, we wanted to find out what a St Kilian whisky with Mizunara full maturation would taste like,"
Master Blender Mario Rudolf explains.
"Inspired by our trip to Japan in 2017, we filled the Mizunara oak barrels with our mild as well as our peaty new make spirits.
By doing so, the present result exceeds by far our expectation
and confirms the magic that this extraordinary wood ignites in our whisky."
Please note: At St. Kilian they intend to do only full maturation in casks and no double maturation or finishings. However, a revatting has to be done when casks accidentally are leaking.
Official Taste Notes
A beguiling fruit sweetness, carried by ripe pear, apricot and exotic melon, underpinned by buttery cream toffee, aromatic sandalwood and oriental spices.
Fruity sweet start with ripe pears, apples and apricots, at the same time warming with spicy oak and sandalwood notes as well as some pepper, before the creamy fruit melange takes over again.
Long lasting with creamy fruit jam, accompanied by dry sandalwood aromas as well as a hint of buttery toffee.
55.1% abv "
The St Kilian Exceptional Mizunara is a well balanced harmonious young single malt with some rather pleasing sweetness and a basket full of fruity notions of ripe fruit like apples, pears and some melon along with some lingering spiciness. The soft mouthfeel is long lingering with toffee notes and surprisingly the strong alcohol of 55.1% abv is well embedded and makes for the enforcement of the fruity notes. The Mizunara oak gives the St Kilian whisky depth and complex very subtle spicy notes melted with cinnamon and vanilla. However young the single malt is, the whisky seems to have enjoyed a much longer maturation.
St Kilian Honorary Brand Ambassador Udo Sonntag said:
This whisky is the opposite of ordinary.
That's quite a cracker...
There are only a few Exceptional Mizunara St Kilian bottles left at the distillery for direct sale. No wonder most of the 300 bottles were sold within five minutes after the web presentation show on Saturday 6th May 2023 for €249.00 (0.5l).
NB: There will be further Mizunara St Kilian releases in future. Whisky geeks loving peated whiskies will certainly be pleased when the next Exceptional Mizunara cask will be released.
See also WhiskyExperience
A Visit to Ariake Sangyo Cooperage
The well-known Belgian Taster Ruben Luyten writes in his WhiskyNotes.be about the St Kilian Mizunara Release:
"Nose: very fruity. There are lots of sweet pears and apples, a subtle hint of vanilla ice cream and nougat. Then more exotic hints of melons and papaya, alongside mild virgin oak spice, like white pepper and nutmeg. Hints of sandalwood (Mizunara comes close) with this unique oriental fingerprint. Fresh mint grows stronger over time.
Mouth: clearly more spicy now. Ginger and pepper jump forward, with apricot sweetness and vanilla in the background. Lemon liqueur, some rooty hints and perhaps a little sawdust. Whiffs of cardamom and juniper, always with creamy fruits underneath.
Finish: medium long, more pears alongside buttery notes and sandalwood spice.
One of four medium toasted Mizunara casks they sourced from Hokkaido, all filled on the same day, two with unpeated spirit and two with peated. It is a very good spirit in a vibrant cask. Young St. Kilian but already very enjoyable, up there with the best Shizuokas for instance. Sold for around € 250 in a fancy case...Score: 88/100"
Ernie - Ernst J. Scheiner is the editor of The Gateway to Distilleries www.whisky-distilleries.net
He documents over 150 distilleries photographically from the inside and describes the production of the whiskies in detail. Since his studies at the University of
Edinburgh, he has been involved with the subject of whisky and has published in specialist magazines such as The Ireland Journal, Kleinbrennerei, Whisky Passion and The Highland Herold. Features and stories have appeared in blogs like whiskyexperts, whiskyfanbl, SHMKR (closed) and whiskyintelligence. As former head of the VHS Ingelheim, and now as a whisk(e)y ambassador, he teaches distilling, organizes study tours and tours to the sources of whisky.