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Bowmore unveils ‘world first’ single malt

East meets west as Islay distillery releases limited edition luxury single malt matured in Japanese mizunara oak.

The limited edition whisky is finished in Japanese oak that can take 300 years to become fully mature (Photo: Bowmore)

Limited to a run of just 2,000 bottles, Bowmore Mizunara Cask Finish is the first Scotch whisky to be matured in mizunara casks, Bowmore said. Each bottle will retail at £650.

With tasting notes of “sweet vanilla, cedar wood, mango, honey rose blossom, peat and smoke”, the whisky is said to combine “Scottish strength and passion with Japanese elegance and refinement”.

Although the bottle contains no age information, Bowmore head distiller David Turner said the whisky contains “different vintages of the nineties”.

The whisky represents a reversal of the traditional Scottish-Japanese whisky relationship, with Japanese distillers usually taking inspiration from Scotch whisky production methods, particularly the use of American whiskey and Spanish sherry casks for maturation.

Although the Bowmore Mizunara Cask Finish was matured in old Bourbon and sherry casks, it spent its final three years in mizunara oak.

The casks were handmade in Japan before being transported 6,000 across two oceans to Bowmore’s No. 1 Vaults warehouse.

Quirky quercus

Mizunara oak (Latin name: quercus mongolica) grows in northern areas of Japan and can take up to 300 years to reach maturity. It is said to have a much higher level of vanillins than European or American oak.

Notoriously difficult to work with but prized for their flavours of coconut, sandalwood and kara – a type of Japanese incense – Mizunara casks are among the rarest in the world.

Despite this, a growing number of Japanese distilleries are now using mizunara oak for maturation, having initially preferred to import sherry and bourbon casks from Europe and the US, repectively.

The oldest Islay distillery, Bowmore said that mizunara casks have never before been used to make whisky outside of Japan.

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