Food & Drink

Chivas Regal Designs Precious Time for Ultra-Rare Japanese Oak Casks

The very eagerly anticipated Chivas Regal Mizunara lands on Malaysian shores

BY Grace Lai | Apr 12, 2018 | News

Scotland’s very strict laws say only whiskies distilled and matured in Scotland can be called Scotch. Aged in very rare, Japanese Mizunara oak casks (from trees two-centuries old or older, a little bird confirms), the Chivas Regal Mizunara collection was distilled in the Scottish way, where the climate is perfect for the golden liquid to gently age and develop.  It also happens to be the first Scotch whisky to be selectively finished in Mizunara oak casks.

Pernod Ricard Malaysia recently launched the Chivas Regal Mizunara at Bar des Embiez, the exclusive sanctuary of its headquarters here. To the beat of hand drums, dancing geishas and even an artistic cherry blossom tree, guests were introduced to the rare drop, once exclusive to Japan. The distinctive turquoise label identifies the Mizunara as an extremely scarce collection that's now in Malaysia.

It won’t escape notice that there’s been something of role reversal in the whisky world, which Pernod Ricard Malaysia brand manager Benedict Yong describes as “wide and varied, steeped in craftsmanship. Japanese powerhouse whiskies were inspired by Scottish whiskies to begin with,” he observes. “Now we have an instance of paying homage the other way around, a blend inspired with a Japanese influence. To say it is an exciting addition to our lineup here in Malaysia is an understatement.”

Whisky collectors appreciate that much of what distinguishes their drink lies in its finishing process. Extremely scarce, the Mizunara oak trees indigenous to Japan have equally exceptional qualities which they impart to the whisky.

“Among blenders, Mizunara oak casks are highly respected for two main reasons,” Sandy Hyslop, Chivas Brothers Director of Blending tells Esquire.

“First, they are incredibly rare (Mizunara oak is among the rarest and most-expensive types of oak in the world); and secondly, once sourced, they present complex challenges for ageing whisky. The permeable nature of the oak results in an intense and greater influence of flavour from the casks, meaning the quality of each batch must be meticulously and individually assessed. These oaks are famously difficult to harness and mould.”

Mastering this process results in whisky that’s “justly matchless,” Hyslop adds. “I hope whisky lovers in Malaysia will enjoy this truly distinctive, luxury blend: a new experience within the Chivas Regal range, and a fitting Scottish tribute to this exceptional Japanese oak.”

A caramel orange glow is matched by fruit on the nose, simultaneously rich and fresh; the tasting notes read “pear and orange”, which seem just right. The finish subtly nutty (“a trace of hazelnut”) with a hint of aniseed in its long aftertaste (“smooth and rich with honey sweetness). Mizunara casks are said to be subtle yet distinctive in their influence, and the Chivas Regal Mizunara harnesses its quiet superhero powers to great effect on the characteristically generous Chivas house style.

It’s perfect for a rainy night in; the drink of choice once you’re tucked in bed with a good book, a warm body and a sparkling crystal glass. Analysis be damned. Savour; for history, scarcity and simple beauty.