Hideaki Nakayama, reporting for GetNavi Web, comment that’s he’s been to lots of new product launches in the drinks business, but nothing like this.
A new collaboration between a big name in the whisky world and a long-established sake brewery has seen Chivas Regal giving old whisky barrels to Masuizumi for ageing their sake.
The whisky-barrel matured sake is called Link 8888, with the number taken from the number of kilometres separating the Chivas Regal distillery in Scotland from the Masuda brewery in Toyama Prefecture.
Chivas Regal was founded in 1801, and the Masuda brewery, makers of Masuizumi, in 1893. Nakayama comments on the fine flavour of the sake, underpinned by umami, and its success at international competition – which is only Masumizumi were one of the pioneers of the ginjō style.
And who better to introduce these two than wandering former Japanese football player and sake promoter Hidetoshi Nakata. Both Chivas Regal and Masuda were impressed by the other’s craftsmanship, and decided to collaborate despite the barriers of distance and culture.
Ryūichirō Masuda, President and CEO of the brewery, commented that as Chivas Regal is loved by so many people of different nationalities all over the world, what started out as a Scottish-Japanese collaboration soon began to feel like something much bigger, a link to people all over the world. Talking with the distillery also gave them the opportunity to examine their own preconceptions about sake brewing. He knew they would have to create a powerful genshu capable of standing up to the strong aroma from the whisky barrels, so they experimented with rice and brewing methods different from their traditional ones.
Chivas Regal are known for their “art of blending”. Applying this to the sake-making process, Masuda avoided the go-to “king of (sake-specific) rice” Yamada Nishiki, instead turning to its parent variety Yamadabō and ancient black rice (黒米, kuro-mai) to produce a complex genshu. The resulting sake was left to age for four months in American oak (bourbon) barrels.
Yamanaka comments that Link 8888 has both fresh sweetness and milky mellow notes, with the aroma of Scotch whisky still present. There is definite body alongside multiple layers of flavour.