On Thursday evening, we hosted George at the Whiskey Club for a Japanese whisky night themed around Koji. I know Koji the dog, but what on earth is Koji? As it turns out, Koji, which the Doc 😍 has mentioned several times, is a type of mold applied to rice after it’s steamed. It then enters fermentation with the rice, and along with yeast, creates a unique fermentation process. The main highlight of Koji fermentation is that it uses 100% of the distillate—there’s no heads, hearts, and tails separation. Everything is usable in the first distillation—mind-blowing! Imagine how much cost is saved here. The distillate comes out at 43%-46%, allowing for this no-cut process. Overall, this tasting was exceptional. The whisky was tasty but lacked richness and depth, and at around $95, it felt a bit pricey for what it offered. In short, it was complex.

We started with:

Chuko Ryukyu Awamori This is a Koji distillate without barrel aging, essentially sake. Diluted with ice, it was like cool, good sake, which I personally love. Many of us are used to ordering hot sake in restaurants, but the truth is, hot sake is considered cheap and at the bottom of the menu. Cold sake is the quality one, and that’s where it’s measured. We tried it with and without ice, and there’s no doubt that with ice, it had more character and depth.

Ohishi Whiskey 8 years ex-sherry 40.8% A beautiful thing, my favorite of the evening. Koji fermentation that entered an ex-Oloroso sherry cask with clear notes of cooked plums and heavy sweetness. But! The whisky wasn’t deep and was very light, definitely something you could easily finish half a bottle of while watching “Married at First Sight.”

Fukano Whiskey Something stunning! On the nose, again, overripe fruits and cooked sugar—a combination of Oloroso, Mizunara, and ex-bourbon. On the palate, sweet dark chocolate. It’s flat but light and wonderful, a summer whisky to sip on the porch with good friends.

Next was:

IKKIKIO This one is Koji applied to rice + wheat. Honestly? It was the hit of the evening, and the bottle disappeared in a flash! I didn’t even get to give it a second taste, and I have no memory of what that Ikkikio was like…

Ohishi Islay 43.2% Finally, Koji rice aged in Laphroaig barrels! Exciting? Not sure. It’s sake aged in smoke but lacks the heavy meaty depth found in the typical Islay peat, including Kilchoman. It was indeed interesting but not enough… again, light and pleasant but missing depth, body, and chewiness. And if it wants to be Japanese, it lacks the elegant sharpness. It felt like they took Kilchoman and slightly diluted it. I don’t know, odd.

The show was stolen by a bottle that George “sneaked in” for tasting—a single malt from India called D’rou, which is being launched in stores tomorrow. The story is that D’rou is the wooden vessel in which Indians offer whisky to the gods. I couldn’t find support for this on the WWW, but maybe I didn’t search enough. Either way, it was DA BOMB! A very rich single malt at the right strength of 57.2%—as my friends said, “Faith no more”—this is the real thing! Especially compared to what we tasted. Not that what we tasted wasn’t tasty! As my community members said, definitely an interesting experience to taste, but not sure everyone would buy, especially considering the relatively high price. The Indian bottle, which was super rich and deep, with rotten sweetness and much broader flavor richness—everyone lined up to buy it. You never know.

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