World Whisky

Karuizawa Asama Review – Japanese Single Malt Whisky

This heavy and heavily sherried style of whisky remind me a lot Glendronach. It’s good stuff, but a little more diversity would make it.

Originally posted to Reddit by esajz24.

Since we veered a bit away from Scotland with the French Kornog, let’s keep with that theme. It’s high time I reviewed another Japanese whisky! This time, the whisky in question is Asama, produced at the now closed Karuizawa distillery and bottled by the Number One Drinks Company.

Asama is an 11 year old bottling and contains sherry matured whisky that was distilled during 1999 and 2000, the final years of Karuizawa’s operation. So sad that the distillery closed… For now, at least, the most I can do is savor a glass of their whisky! Oh, an interesting tidbit is that the whisky is called Asama after Mount Asama, the volcano by which Karuizawa was built.



  • Color: Amber +1
  • Aroma Neat: Meaty Sherry, Rubbery/Pencil Erasers, Smyrna Figs, Dates, Muscovado Sugar, Burnt Sugar/Caramel, Soy Sauce, Sweet Barley/Cereal, Almond Nougat (slight marzipan), Seasoned Oak, Demi-Glace (slightly), Darkest Honey. A big and somewhat dirty sherry punch is delivered immediately after pouring. With time, savory (dare I say umami) notes emerge, along with sweet barley.
  • Aroma Water: Dark Brown Sugar, Rum, Raisins, Tarry Sherry, Dried Malt/Grist, Seasoned Oak, Hazelnuts (slightly), Rubber/Latex, Dried Plums, Charred Wood/Light Ash (slightly), Sawdust, Spicy Tobacco, Honeycomb, Mineral Water. The sherry and rubber retreat a bit, allowing malt and sweeter notes through. Surprisingly, after a very long time in the glass, this develops a pleasing mineral character.
  • Taste Neat: Rubber (a bit burnt), Molten Caramel/Honey, Mushrooms/Sulfur, Wax (slightly), Eel/Plum Sauce (not sweet), Brown Sugar, Raisins, Struck Matches, Dark Berries. A little sulfurous, but luckily it complements the whisky, much like with Glendronach. This is certainly flavorful on the palate, but it’s a tad hot and not quite as complex as I expected.
  • Taste Water: Brown Sugar, Rubber, Vanilla, Toffee, Creamy Malt, Struck Matches/Sulfur, Mushrooms, Wax, Berry Bitterness, Tannic Oak, Soy Sauce. Pretty similar to neat, although sweeter with an initial hit of brown sugar.
  • Finish: Rubbery Mushrooms, Chewy Raisins, Soy Sauce-Soaked Oak, Prickly Alcohol, Brine, Seared Steak. Very warming with good duration. Not wildly complex, but appropriate and somewhat salty.

Mt. Asama Erupts


Rubbery, big sherry nose that develops new layers with time in the glass. Moderately sulfured palate, which makes for a pleasing contrast with the dark sherry notes. Warming finish which is salty and somewhat savory.

Rating: 85/100

This heavy and heavily sherried style of whisky remind me a lot Glendronach. It’s good stuff, but I think a little more diversity of flavor would make this even better. Can’t wait to try more from Karuizawa. That wait won’t be too long, though, because I have a sample of the much ballyhooed 1967-2009 Karuizawa from The Whisky Exchange and La Maison du Whisky to review next!

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