Whisky Review Round Up: Shinobu Japanese Whisky - The Whiskey Wash

Whisky Review Round Up: Shinobu Japanese Whisky

Editor’s Note: These whiskies were provided to us as review samples by CNS Imports. This in no way, per our editorial policies, influenced the final outcome of this review.

Shinobu whisky comes out of Niigata Japan known for “three whites”. Those three white treasures are sake, snow, and rice. A place of pure water.

The word Shinobu, as pertaining to this whisky, means “forbearance” which shows patience for the making of the whisky. It’s also about self control. In other meanings it’s also about endurance, perseverance, purity, intention and belief. All good things when it comes to making whisky, I think you will agree.

Both of the whiskies in this review are unique in flavor. It might have something to do with the careful selection of whisky that has been aging in ex-sherry or ex-bourbon casks. Once master distiller Mr. Usami selects the whisky he then finishes them in precious Japanese Mizunara oak barrels. What’s also fantastic is the lack of added coloring. It is what makes the Shinobu Blended Whisky so pale, almost like water in the glass. Shinobu Pure Malt Whisky is a bit darker but also on the lighter side.

If there’s no added color or flavoring, how can whisky get more subtle flavors? This is why many distilleries like Shinobu use ex-wine or ex-bourbon barrels. With those barrels there are trace amounts of wine and bourbon aromas and flavors that are left over and release into the whisky during the aging process.

Furthering the aging process with Mizunara oak, these trees started being used in World War II because of the lack of imported casks. The spirit was popular so they had to come up with a way to still make it. Whisky distillers turned to their native Mizunara oak. Today adding the name Mizunara oak to any whisky from Japan, US or Scotland can cause it to fly off the shelf faster. It can also add to a higher price tag because the Mizunara oak trees need to be over 200 years old before they can be cut and used for casks.

Shinobu whisky

Two of the Shinobu whiskies (image via Melissa Jones/The Whiskey Wash)

Tasting Notes: Shinobu Blended Whisky

Vital Stats: 86 proof; 50% malt and 50% grain; no age statement; $53

Appearance: A very pale gold that turns even lighter in the glass.

Nose: The smell is briney like hijiki or fermented sea vegetables. There’s a bit of burn with some peat.

Palate: Upon tasting Shinobu Per Blended it was a it simple in flavor. It was sour and malty with a salty aftertaste.

Final Thoughts: I don’t think I’ve ever tasted a whisky that was salty with hints of the sea like this one. It didn’t taste like a complex whisky but a very unique one. The favors remind me of a simple scotch that you’re sipping at waters edge.

Score: 3.5/5

Tasting Notes: Shinobu Pure Malt Whisky

Vital Stats: 86 proof; no age statement; 100% malted barley; $75

Appearance: Tawny

Nose: Smells like a roasted whole grain with a bit of kelp.

Palate: There are hints of salt, citrus and cinnamon.

Final Thoughts: It’s a smooth sipping whiskey with a balanced palate and a little oaky burn. I would definitely recommend this one over the Shinobu Pure Blended but the flavors are more like your typical scotch or whisky.

Score: 4/5


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