The bottles may be new, but two extremely rare, limited edition Karuizawa whiskies for sale at The Whisky Exchange are expensive for good reason: the actual spirit comes from a Japanese distillery that closed in 2000.
The Sapphire Geishas, as they are known, contain small-batch whisky that was inspired by the scotchmaker's art. One bottle was first distilled 36 years ago, the other is 31-years-old.
The spirits were aged in single sherry casks and there just aren't that many to go around. Just 146 of the 31-year and 105 of the 36-year-old vintage. They come in elegantly-designed bottles with sapphire blue labels bearing the image of a geisha, with the age of the whisky prominently displayed.
The Whisky Exchange's tasting notes for the 36 suggest the kind of complex flavor profile you'd expect from such a well-aged batch:
A kick of chocolate-covered liquorice leads to spicy leaves, cinnamon heat and concentrated fruit: pineapple, mango, apple and pear compressed to a singularity of flavour. Blackcurrants and damp oak develop, all coated in fruity, bittersweet dark chocolate. Hints of tar emerge, wrapped around pine twigs and run through with spice and brown-sugar sweetness.
And despite the bottles being identical save the years, the 31-year-old line definitely has a character all its own:
A burst of dark brown sugar sweetness is balanced by deep earth and oak savouriness before mint and menthol burst through the middle. Bittersweet chocolate and dried cherries sit alongside cigar-box cedar and damp tree bark. Intense dried-fruit notes build: rich dates and prunes with sweet raisins and sultanas. Lighter fruit emerges, with dried pineapple and baked apples heavily dusted with cinnamon and brown sugar.
Unfortunately, even if you have the funds, you can only purchase by ballot, and your entry must be submitted by the end of the day on Wednesday, February 26, 2020.
The 36-year-old Sapphire Geisha is retailing for just under $20,000 USD, and the 31-year-old for just over $16,000. Learn more at thewhiskyexchange.com.