Japanese Blended Whisky #1 21yo Batch 2 That Boutique-y Whisky Company

Japanese Blended Whisky 21yo Boutique-y

In the backdrop of Japan’s whisky shortage crisis in 2015, renowned brands such as Nikka and Suntory found themselves grappling with depleted stockpiles of aged whisky. In response, they made the strategic decision to either discontinue age statements for their flagship expressions or significantly curtail production, opting instead for controlled allocations to their distributors. This scarcity, coupled with a fervent fear of missing out and an element of greed, precipitated an unprecedented surge in prices for the remaining inventory, a trend that has persisted unabated till present day. Amidst this tumultuous landscape, however, That Boutique-y Whisky Company defied the odds by unearthing a cache of 21-year-old Japanese blended whisky, releasing six batches over a few years.

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Arran's Lochranza Castle

Arran 18yo & Lochranza Castle

Surprisingly, my exploration into Arran whiskies has been somewhat limited on my whisky journey. A mere 18 expressions have been recorded in my whisky tracking Google sheet, which includes the Lochranza variant that I will delve into shortly. Despite this modest number, I hold the Arran distillery in high esteem, particularly for their unpeated releases. It’s a distillery I frequently recommend to those seeking both flavour-packed and reasonably priced whiskies.

The acquisition of the Arran 18-year-old bottle, which forms the focal point of my review below, was a deliberate choice. I found myself orchestrating an online tasting featuring whiskies from the Scottish Islands a few months ago, and naturally, the Isle of Arran deserved representation. Whilst Lagg, the second distillery established by Arran Distillers, had already unveiled its inaugural whisky, I yearned for something more aged, leading me to the Arran 18-year-old expression.

In this review, I aim to explore the nuances of this Arran 18yo and compare it with the Lochranza Castle edition.

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Armorik 2002 21-year-old

Armorik 21-Year-Old Single Bottle

Indeed, just a solitary bottle, or one might even liken it to a (small) demijohn, as described by Warenghem Distillery. Finespirits Auction and LMDW have launched a special spirits auction in support of Fondation GoodPlanet. This remarkable auction kicked off during Whisky Live Paris and is set to run until November 3, 2023. An exceptional item up for bidding is a distinctive bottle or demijohn from the Warenghem Distillery, boasting their most extended age statement to date: a single 2-litre bottle of Armorik 21-Year-Old.

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Suntory Hibiki 21-year-old

Suntory Hibiki 17-year-old and Hibiki 21-year-old

In 1987, Suntory’s Master Blender Keizo Saji decided to develop a blended whisky to reflect the sophistication of Suntory’s techniques. Suntory says that their Chief Blender, Koichi Inatomi, sampled and tasted aged malt whiskies from one million casks at Suntory. Maybe not just to make Hibiki, as 1 million casks sampled would mean 91 samples a day for 30 years… Anyway, in the end, Saji and Inatomi found the flavour they wanted by blending thirty distinctive malt and grain whiskies from Suntory distilleries, Yamazaki and Hakushu for the malt, and Chita for the grain. The first Hibiki, Hibiki 17-year-old was released in 1989 to celebrate the 90th anniversary of Suntory whisky. The 21-year-old would follow in 1994. Whatever the expression from the range, they are always presented in the brand’s trademark 24-faceted bottle representing the Japanese seasons. So let’s try those two initial expressions from the range, Suntory Hibiki 17 and 21-year-old.

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Three Glenburgie in their twenties

Sixty-eight years of Glenburgie

Glenburgie is one of those distilleries with a severe lack of love from their owner company for the brand as a single malt. Glenburgie is currently owned by Chivas Brothers (Pernod-Ricard) and has been for a long time one of the main components of the world’s second best-selling Blended Scotch whisky, Ballantine’s. They don’t have a dedicated website for the distillery, nor a visitor centre at the distillery. The only current official bottlings are branded with the blend name: two Glenburgie 15 and 18 years old from the Ballantine’s Signature Malt range, also having two of its other main components, also owned by Chivas: Miltonduff and Glentauchers. But they’re bottled at 40%. It seems cheap but very hard to find, the only shops I could find for this being in Greece and Germany. So, it means that Glenburgie fans must turn to independent bottlers, as luckily, they don’t seem to run out of good Glenburgie casks to bottle, allowing us to have a ‘burgie fix. And let’s have our fix today, with three independent bottling of Glenburgie, all in their twenties.

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Old and new Nikka Taketsuru NAS and 21-years-old

Old and new Nikka Taketsuru

The Nikka Taketsuru range is a good example of the problem Japanese whisky is facing. And I mean the true Japanese whisky, the one distilled in Japan, not the “bottle whatever and slap some Japanese kanji” fake Japanese whisky crap. As you’ve read a thousand times, there is a shortage of old Japanese whisky stocks, that is here for a long time (you can’t accelerate years, even though, and especially with 2020, you’d sometimes want to). And the demand for Japanese whisky is so high that the current production is not even enough to cover the needs. Thus, Nikka announced last year expansions for its Miyagikyo and Yoichi distilleries to fight shortage. But since whisky takes time to mature, the shortage will probably stay at least until 2030… And earlier this year, they sadly announced the total discontinuation of the 17, 21 and 25-year-old Nikka Taketsuru, their pure malt blend of Yoichi and Miyagikyo juices, named after the founder of the Nikka group. I won’t go into the history of Nikka and Masataka Taketsuru as I’ve briefly covered that previously on the Yoichi blind tasting I organized with friends. They also announced they would renew their NAS edition of Taketsuru, and thus today we’re going to review the old and new Nikka Taketsuru NAS, as well as the discontinued Taketsuru 21-year-old.

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