While on a joint-family vacation in the Okanagan for a week, my buddy Richard and I both had the unsurprising yet brilliant idea to bring a whisky to share. Surprisingly, however, neither of us selected a scotch or a Canadian whisky. I chose to bring Booker’s Bourbon, while my friend brought a bottle of Kirin Japanese whisky. Japanese whiskies are quite rare in the bottle shops where I live, and I’ve never seen Kirin before, but Richard had just recently returned from spending a year in his wife’s homeland of South Korea and had visited some of her relatives in Japan. Smart guy that he is, of course he grabbed something I wouldn’t have had a chance to try before. The information on the bottle was written almost entirely in Japanese characters, except for “Non-chill Filtered”, so we couldn’t figure out much except that this whisky is bottled at 50% abv.
My poor photography skills don’t show the true pale-straw colour of this dram. The nose was somehow vaguely familiar and I immediately identified it as a blended whisky by the distinct grainy-floral aroma that also offered a little vanilla and some orchard fruits. A bourbon-like character arrives after the dram breaths a bit. On the palate, Kirin whisky once again seemed familiar, reminding me a bit of a Johnny Walker Green Label… maybe… but perhaps just the Red Label. It’s pleasant enough, and quite easy-drinking, but not at all complex – some green apples, a hint of caramel and maybe a little oaky vanillins on the back end. Once again, slightly bourbony, so I expect American oak is involved in casking. The finish was short but fairly smooth, with a bit more oak and a slight twist of orange zest. I’m glad to have had the opportunity to give Kirin a try, even though it was somewhat uninspiring.