Ep. 34 - Kaiyo and LHK Spirits' Brand Ambassador Jay Cole
OCEAN AGED WHISKY // So, is whisky aged at sea a gimmick or the real deal? Find out.
Listen to the Episode
It's time for a deep dive (pardon the pun) into ocean aged whisky and Japanese whisky - as my guest is LHK Spirits and Kaiyo Whisky brand ambassador Jay Cole.
And the way I was introduced to Kaiyo whisky was actually through a Flaviar tasting box, where I sampled three different whiskies. And I was so enamoured with the unique flavors and complexity of Kaiyo's Japanese Misunara Oak, that I had to pick up a bottle for myself.
And during this episode, I'll be doing a tasting of one of the whiskies that Jay sent to me back in January. We were going to do the interview then, but then I was hit with a bout of COVID and lost my sense of smell. So we waited until May to do this interview and then I thought it would be the perfect pairing with the kickoff of the new season of the Whiskey Lore podcast, where my first episode is built around whisky aged at sea.
Here are some things we'll cover:
- How he got started as a brand ambassador and sipping whisky
- The meaning of the word Kaiyo
- The rules of Japanese whisky
- Kaiyo's place in Japanese whisky
- Jeffery Karlovitch and the Lost Distillery project
- Bringing scotch whisky concepts to Japanese whisky
- Working with Mizunara Oak
- How their whisky ages at sea
- The scientific approach to testing whisky aged at sea
- The reason for aging at sea
- How are they keeping Kaiyo affordable
- Orkney and Islay grains vs Japanese grains
- The unique flavors and scents of Japanese whisky
- The experience of a single cask bottling
- Where it is available
Listen to the full episode with the player above or find it on your favorite podcast app under "Whiskey Lore: The Interviews." The full transcript is available on the tab above.
For More Information:
Welcome to Whiskey Lore, the interviews. I'm your host, drew Hamish, the Amazon bestselling author of Whiskey Lord's Travel Guide to Experiencing Kentucky Bourbon. And today we're, pardon the pun, we're going to do a deep dive into ocean aged whiskey as well as Japanese whiskey. And my guest is L H k Spirits and Cayo whiskey brand ambassador j Cole. And the way that I was introduced to Cayo whiskey was actually through a flaviar tasting box where they sent me three different samples of Japanese whiskey. And I was so enamored with the unique flavors and the complexity of the Cayo Japanese Mazzara Oak that I decided to go right to the store and get a bottle of it before it disappeared. Luckily, this is their flagship whiskey, so this should be available wherever you are if you're in the us and it is around the globe as well.
But during this episode, I'm actually going to be tasting a sample of a single cask version of that whiskey that Jay sent to me. And this interview was supposed to happen back in January, but because of me getting Covid, that meant no sense of smell and I really didn't want to waste this sample. So we waited until May and then did this interview, but then the whiskey lore season was over. So I wanted to do a story about whiskeys at sea. And since this is aged at sea, it seemed perfect for that. So this has been waiting a long time for you to finally get a chance to hear. So I am excited to share this with you and we've got a lot to cover in this episode. So let me start off by welcoming to the show. Jay Cole.
Excellent. Thank you so much, drew. This is a pleasure to get to talk to you and just very much been looking forward to getting to chat with you about all these whiskeys and the brands since that's what I get to work with day in and day out. I'm one of those luckier whiskey geeks that was able to kind of fanangle my way into the industry through just being that crazy obsessed whiskey nerd. And then here we are now, so I get to do it as a career, which is I'm very lucky to do
Stairstep through. Where did you start your whiskey journey?
It's actually very, it's interesting in that when I was first starting to get into whiskey much more heavily and really kind of find my footing in it as a just appreciator and one going to events, I met my now boss who is the master blender for Cayo and for other brands that I work with it within L H K. But I met him at an event. I went to this event with a very good friend of mine who was mutual friends with my now boss. And we just got introduced to each other, and this was well over 10 years ago. And then just as time went on, he knew that I was doing just events independently, either private tastings for friends or restaurants or even some of the retailers around here. If there wasn't an ambassador that they had to call on to help just do an event, they would just say, Hey, could you help and just talk about these and showcase them.
So yeah, of course. Then, so this many me years later, master Blender reached out to me and said, would you like to consider a position working regionally in New England? I live in Massachusetts working regionally in New England in the Northeast with these whiskeys that I'm working on with Cayo. And I said, of course, absolutely. That's, I think almost every single whiskey nerd out there is aspiring to get to that point. So it was a great form of just kind of connecting those dots as organically as you could possibly get that from a geek standpoint, it wasn't starting, obviously people in the industry either start maybe by bartending or working for a distributor as a sales rep and kind of climb the ladder that way. And this was just me wanting to get into whiskey as much as I could and just surround myself with it, learn everything there is, and then now here I am. It was a good journey. Yeah.
Were you a bourbon drinker before that or did you just kind of free agent you were jumping around or whatever you could try?
I was jumping around, but it was a lot of single mal scotch. That's what really drew me into whiskey overall. And it's funny, if I'm ever doing a seminar and people ask me how I got my taste for whiskey, it really started. And I think a lot of people have a similar type of story where you're just maybe drinking whiskey, maybe younger than you should be. But I was with some friends, I remember one of them having a bottle of Glenlea 12, and we just thought that was living the higher life because before that we were just used to drinking much more cheaper stuff. And it was just one of those things like, Hey, I really enjoy the taste of this. There's no need to be shooting this. I want to try more. I want to learn more. And luckily I had some friends that were much older than me at the time, and they kind of took me under their wing and just said, okay, well here's the good stuff. And then it went from scotch to Irish and then circling back and then getting a better education on everything else that was being made here in the States. And then just on and on and on and on, and more events and more seminars. And being the person in the front row always with a hand raise is wanting to know even more. So that was the kind of trajectory that led me to here.
So CAO means what?
Ocean. Ocean CAO means ocean. All the whiskeys prior to us bottling them, stay in their cask and matured at sea for about three months, 90 to a hundred days. It depends obviously on the ship's overall route and their timeline, but we literally are going around the world. We have two major pathways, I guess you could say, leaving from Japan and ultimately ending and stopping port in Liverpool, England. So that's actually where we bottle. So we do do things a little bit differently as far as that stage of our whiskey goes that we are not actually bottled on the island Japan.
And this brings about all those questions about Japanese whiskey rules because we're very strict about what bourbon is. We're not as strict about what an American single malt is. Canada's a little loose on what Canadian whiskey is, just don't put the E in the name. Scotland has their specific rules for a single malt. So where is Japan right now in terms of their rules? I know there's been talk about they need to get some rules, but has that transpired or is it in motion at this point?
There are definitely some things in motion at the very I, well, I shouldn't say the very beginning of the year, but around early February and I would guess you probably saw a lot of these same articles starting up to be shared around. And there has been people screaming for a very long time about a better definition and a better classification of what constitutes Japanese whiskey because the category overall has been kind of like the Wild West, but it's been done or the production and the philosophy of Japanese whiskey has been done really that way since its founding, since it really kicked off in those early twenties when you had the gentleman that would found Nika and found Sun Tori and obviously move forward with all those brands. The practice of introducing whiskey that maybe was produced outside of the country and then marrying and blending that in with Japanese made product, that was just part of the normal process.
That was part of the philosophy. And obviously since then in the more recent years, whiskey drinkers are becoming much more educated than they were, and they're wanting to dial in, they want to know what it is that they're drinking and how it's been made. There's more of us geeks out there now that really want to have a deep dive into it. So because of that, there's been a number of proposed standards, and these standards have come through basically from a group of Japanese producers wanting to say, Hey, this is collectively we're getting together to want to say this is how we define Japanese whiskey. And part of those proposals are that it is entirely made on the island and there is no addition of any liquid coming from outside of the country. And then it's also being aged in the island for at least three years.
Both of those parts Cayo has been doing since the very beginning when we first started maturing our first liquid. We do things a little bit differently in the way that we don't have a physical distillery yet. We have the plans in place, but the launching of the brand and what we've been doing since the launch is laying down our own casts with raw spirit, with Numa that is produced for us in Japan, and it's completely a hundred percent malted barley spirit. So it's made to our specifications, our standards, and we lay those casts down, most of which is all missing our oak as you touched on and getting into the Flaviar kit that you had received. So everything does touch Ms. Zara one way or another, just as all the whiskeys in our family receive the ocean maturation point. But to make a long production story short, everything, everything starts as raw spirits.
We lay down the casks and then we mature everything on the island for at least three years. And then after that point, even though this hasn't been deemed a law yet, our blender, and I should make sure that I circle back around, his name is Jeffrey Caric, and if that name sounds more American than it does Japanese, it's because he is an American. He spent his whole entire career within the world's spirits category, working with a lot of scotch whiskey, working with actually consulting with a number of Japanese producers earlier on years ago before he had developed Cayo.
He actually had a very interesting project, I think at one point that I don't know if he still is doing this or any of the bottles still exist, this lost distillery concept of yes, that there are scotch distilleries that no longer exist and he was blending whiskeys to match those like a Glen Keith or some, a distillery like that. It now exists again and I think they are producing again, but they were gone for long periods of time. So how much of that history do you know of what he was doing and if those bottles are still out there that he created?
I believe there are some still in the wild after his time, he's no longer blending for the loss distillery company. He has since just moved on to these other projects. But he was the one that really kicked that out into the open and worked with the first few expressions that were released under that brand, which were phenomenal. I was a very big fan. And that idea of using modern whiskey to create something that existed years and years ago that no one will ever have the chance to get their hands on again, of course, unless they have some very good connections and able to get a bottled auction or something that's kind of passed down through a family member or something like that. So it was just between his time with loss distillery. Prior to that, he also worked with Boha and Latek Consulting with Glenn Morgie.
He spent a lot of time in Scotland and just immersed himself in the scotch whiskey industry. And with a lot of those ideals that are already established in scotch, he brought to Cayo, obviously Japan, for anyone who's been following the Japanese whiskey rise in popularity, their roots are certainly grounded within scotch. You see a lot of the first distilleries operating on a number of those same production principles. But there's a couple things that were done more and are still done, obviously in the scotch world that Jeff wanted to bring to the table. And one of those was also keeping all the whiskeys chill filtered. So whereas a lot of Japanese producers do chill filter and there's nothing wrong by them choosing to do that, it's just more of what has been, again, their philosophy. They bring everything into account, whether it be the flavor profiles, keep everything balanced or the aesthetics.
It's a complete package for how they want their whiskey to be and how they want their whiskey to be enjoyed and interpreted. And one of those things is the non shield filter, but Jeff saw that there is a little bit more depth to be had and a difference in character. So he wanted to make sure that the whiskey that he's been working with, because he saw this potential to get to work with these Japanese philosophies on creating whiskey, and he saw that they're way far back before the rise has taken place. So we had casks being laid down a long, long time ago to get ready for the initial Kyle launch, and it just really grew from there. His goal was to just make the best whiskey that he could, and he saw that in using the Japanese philosophies and the Japanese ingredients being the Mazzara Oak as one of the prime foundations and platforms to push that whiskey forward.
Very, I mean, Misero Oak, does it just grow in Japan.
There are other subspecies that are going to be somewhat similar. The closest one that would be for us here in the States would be Ariana that Westland has used for a number of their releases. But it's a very, very alternative would in the sense that it's very hard to work with. It's very difficult to Cooper aask the wood. It itself is very soft in character, which makes it very porous and very prone to leakage. And on top of that, it's very expensive. So you couple these things together, it's one of the reasons why you don't see many brands that are doing full term certainly been a bit of a rise in popularity of Ms. Zara finished whiskeys. But for us right now, we've been the only whiskey producers to go and release full term Ms. Zara matured whiskeys, just because that it's not a small undertaking.
There's a significant expense and investment into it. And just to know that the return of the whiskey that you're going to get from that casket at the end when you're going to get rate a bottle is going to be lower on top of just general evaporation. Our angels share with evaporation and leakage can be upwards of 7% and higher. So it's quite a lot in just l l less liquid loss, but it's one of those double-edged swords that at the end when you are able to enjoy these whiskeys and sip them, you're getting these flavors and aromas that just aren't a part of any other species of oak or any kind of oak that would've been used prior because so much out there is American milk or are used bourbon barrels. This is a totally different animal in the way of these fruit components. The sandalwood spice, a very definitive honey character can be found. So it puts a whole new spin on these flavors that just haven't been quite there before. And I think whiskey drinkers on top of wanting to be more educated, they've also been a lot more open to trying these just other not quite as mainstream production thoughts. And that's helped us to certainly get the growth that we've seen over the last couple years because we've only been around since 2017. That's when the brain officially launched and the first expressions were released.
So I get this romantic picture of this barrel of whiskey sitting on a schooner as sits. What is, what's reality? What, how does this cask sit on the boat and what kind of boat is this thing floating on?
I really wish that I could say that it is this beautiful or this picture perfect yacht or a sailboat or even more a giant pirate ship with black sail. It's unfortunately not as romantic as that. Yeah, we're working with containers, just shipping containers and on a container ship now we have strategic places on that container ship and how these barrels are going to be laid out and just strapped in for the ride, so to speak.
Yeah, because if you put it into a metal container, then it kind of inhibits the salt sea air from being able to get to the cask.
Correct. So these are not fully sealed, they are not fully sealed to the elements, and obviously most of the containers would be. So there's a lot of things that come into play in securing those casks so that they're not just rolling around in there because obviously that's a very big possibility of one either leaking or cracking open, which I'm pretty sure may or may have not happened along some of these journeys. But it's the price to pay for maturing whiskey this way and putting this added step into the production process. But all these casks are loaded into a container. They are secured, the container is left on the top deck of the ship because obviously we want to be having that interaction with the air that is, as you said, but also the temperature changes because we're going from a number of different climates all around the world.
We're leaving from Osaka, Japan after I said after at least that three year point with our whiskeys. The first round of whiskeys were actually much, much more older as far as their time spent on Japan. But we've since been experimenting with whiskeys that have been starting in Japan and how long we let them further mature in our Liverpool England warehouse, which is where we mentioned where we bottle. But that process over three months, we're going from hot to cold, cold to hot. So we're seeing a number of different interactions with the wood. And of course for the American minded whiskey, whiskey drinkers out there, Jefferson's is obviously a name that comes up very often when I'm doing a seminar or a tasting. And it's a similar process as to what they're doing. And I have to reference a really good article that was written about, I want to say two or three years ago now, and it was done through Popular Mechanics and it was with Jefferson at the forefront and it spoke about their whiskey and how it has changed through their use of aging at sea.
And they used an experiment, a very good way to see, okay, what is happening overall, they had whiskey that was laid down in their barrel in Louisville, Kentucky, and they kept that there in their Louisville warehouse. They took a barrel sister barrel that was filled right next to it and it was put, I'm assuming on a barge or some kind of a boat, but in its cask sent down the Mississippi River down to the Gulf Coast, and then over the ocean came up to the east coast following the Atlantic all the way up to New York, which is I believe where the popular mechanics office was. And then both the samples, the one that traveled on the ocean and the original one that stayed in the warehouse were put together and a lab test was run on those. And we were just speaking about this earlier, so it's a great way to kind of connect it all.
Yeah, lab tests were run at a facility out my way in Massachusetts towards out near the Boston area. And they looked at a lot of those really chemical based levels of acidity, certain alcohol components. And I wish I could speak more eloquently on the science of things. I just can geek out as far as tasting once go and talk about production. Yeah, I just don't sound that good talking science sometimes. But what they found with their charts at the end of the day was flavors that they equated to with these certain acids and certain alcohols. Some were much more present specific alcohol component types. Some were much more present in the whiskey that stayed in the Louisville warehouse. And these ended up being flavors that I would say throughout the testing group, people acquainted to being a younger whiskey. It tasted younger, it tasted hotter, whereas those spikes were there in their overall tests with the whiskey estate in Louisville.
Those spikes were not there on the whiskey that had traveled down the Mississippi River and then up the coast finally going to New York. So it was a very interesting depth to see, not that the ocean and maturation point outside of the warehouse was adding, it's actually what it was bringing back. And it was dialing back those tones and those aromas and certain flavors, like I said, that people tend to say, well, that that's a younger flavor or junior younger feeling whiskey. So really, really great article. And it kind of showed some more light to that idea that the idea of maturing spirits at sea, which has been done for a long, long time, where certainly CAO's not the first to do it, neither was Jefferson's, but there is a very, very definitive reason for doing this and has a profound effect. It's not this big marketing ploy because honestly, at the end of the day, it costs a lot of money to transport whiskey like this. You're essentially, you're renting space on these ships and that's no small feat. So there's a lot that goes into it.
So my first knowledge of that goes back to Madeira, which was a pork wine that in the 15th century they started producing this. And along the time that they were shipping it to the East Indies and to the new world, it was aging as it went along in picking up some of the sea characters, some spiciness, but nobody back in on the Madeira Islands, which are off of the African coast and part of Portugal. Nobody knew that their product was actually getting better as it went across the sea until somebody shipped one back. And when it got shipped back, they went, wow, this is really interesting. This is something that we need to do. I had heard a rumor that there were actually still people producing Madeira and sending it out on ships around the world. I don't know if that's actually true or not.
Cause I know nowadays kind of like with lost distillery, there are techniques to be able to mimic aging. And of course they were doing that all the way back when they were doing whiskey rectifying in the US around the bottled in bond era, turn of the previous century, to be able to add flavors. And we do this with our food also. But there, there's something to be said about having the actual process done and paying that little bit extra for an ocean at sea Jefferson's or Cayo whiskey as well. Although what I will say is that Misera Oak is not cheap at all.
It is not.
Sailing your whiskey around the world is not either. And yet when I went to the store and I bought this, I was amazed to see that it was in the sixties $65 range, which would put it in with some of the mainstream, I would say. Sure, yeah. Of pricing. How do you end up keeping this from getting out? Because the other problem is that if you're producing in Japan, and maybe you can speak to this a little bit, we all know that part of the reason why Japanese whiskey is so expensive is because they kind of got caught by surprise at how popular Japanese whiskey got and they weren't produced enough and he got a weight to produce a whiskey. So kind of talk through that whole thing about how you keep this affordable and second of all, how you're dealing with the shortage of whiskey in Japan.
Absolutely. The first part of that is we have a very strong and a very, very good relationship with a Cooperage, which is the Aryaka Cooper Bridge in Japan. And they're producing all of our mazzara casks for us. And we're certainly, again, not the only ones using mazzara in our production line, but we do have the largest stock of mazzara casks being made. So for that reason, although the wood is extremely expensive, about $5,000, is that going rate give or take? It's always going to fluctuate. But that is basically about 10 times more than your average brand New American, no bourbon barrel, that's
No, these would be a little bit larger. Typically these are larger. Typically we are working with either 400 or 450 liter size casks, so obviously bigger than your standard bourbon barrel, approaching more of like that sherry butt size. And we found that larger casks, it's a lot easier for us to control and keep the liquid in sight for whatever reason when we're working with smaller casks, the tendency the leak would be much, much higher. And it has to do with again, that the porous quality of the wood zaina literally translates to water oak. So it's just one of those, again, those caveats that with a smaller cast, cause we've had every single version of every single cask you could possibly conceive to experiment with and see how our whiskey would develop with it. And the smaller cast system, unfortunately it didn't work. So the sweet spot is most certainly these 400, 450 liter casks, but we have this relationship with the Ira Cooper Bridge and they're making these tasks for us.
And it certainly is an expensive feat. And luckily from the founding of the brand, when we first launched everything, we had the right people willing to make the investment because this was not going to be something that was going to be cheap at all, especially because with many other brands like you would see nowadays, many are going to either develop other spirits to sell and try to get some revenue back like a ginner of vodka. You see a lot of that here in the states or they're going to purchase and select whiskey. It's already been completely matured and then released that, which there's no, I see no issue with either of those at all. Obviously everybody's to start somewhere. We were just fortunate in being able to have the right money invested to lay down the Cass herself and sit on them and not release until Jeff said, okay, we're ready now.
Because he is a very passionate person when it comes to the whiskey that he's making, and he does not cut any corners. And if he says it's not ready or something's not fulfilling to his standards, then it's not going to see the light of day. So he is very, very strict about his babies, his casts when it comes to that. So to keep that, we have obviously a lot of liquid laid down, and as peculiar as it is, we're most excited right now the casks that are our owned that we will be seeing a second fill with. So although the whiskey that you have on the table there, that would've all been brand new, brand new already since obviously dumped a number of casks to release batches of that whiskey, of that expression. But Jeff is most excited about what the second and when the third fills, when that round comes to happen, because there's a very big spice push in Ms.
Nara and it's very early years, a lot of times you're going to see that spice takeover. And that's why you didn't see a lot of Ms Zar releases when it was first being experimented with going back to say like the mid forties, mid fifties, because Japan was just beginning to experiment with their domestic oak. And that was really a result of World War II trade embargoes. They could not get bourbon barrels or American oak imported in, so they had to resort to experimenting and utilizing their domestic species of wood. And in those first couple years, it was just hugely big on the spice bitter not getting those bigger fruit components that everyone knows Ms. Naras capable of producing now. And it wasn't until those extra years later, they went back and said, okay, we have something here. So Jeff is lichens, obviously almost any whiskey producer, a cas is like a teabag. Obviously the more times you use it, the flavors are going to be a bit more subdued. But in the case of Ms Nara, it's much more that spice, that sandalwood intensity that drops and it helps push the fruit characters much more to the forefront. So that's why he's very excited to see the longer aged expressions and also these second and third fills. So it's going to be a while before that whiskey sees the light a day, but when it does, I know he'll be very, very excited to get that released when it's ready.
And so in terms of the spirits that you're getting in right now, I mean is you're getting, again, just malt whiskey, you're not getting in neutral grain spirits?
That is correct. Everything is a hundred percent malt, and this is the case for the better entirety of Japan. The malting process does happen outside the island, so typically they're going to be looking at Scotland or barley, say from maybe even Scandinavia area. So those mold things will happen outside the country, but they're going to import that grain and then do everything else there on the island.
Okay. You you've experimented with ped I'm, I'm guessing then?
Absolutely. We've had a couple expressions and we will hopefully be debuting and releasing a very special edition version of a ped whiskey early on this year. And just because we don't have official dates in mind for that, whether it's being Covid has laid waste to international shipping logistics as a complete nightmare. And I'm sure you've seen this with many other brands as well, but we have some very exciting things in the works, one of them being a repeated expression, but we've released two others and they were utilizing Pete, both coming from Ory Scotland and another edition that utilized Pete coming from Isla. So they both took their characteristics, obviously depending on where the Pete was coming from, Ory having that Heather honey style more of a Highland Park character, Isla being much more of a coastal, having a bit of salinity, medic, medicinal kind of salt.
Yeah. Yes. And obviously there are some other Japanese producers that have been using Pete and Japan does have very small amounts of peat available to it, and they do have the ability to grow their own barley as well, but it's not going to be the same flavors. It's not going to be in the same quantities as you can see throughout the UK and throughout Scandinavia where if Japan wanted to utilize their peat reserves, they'd wipe 'em out very quickly. But it is that tip of the hat to that traditional, traditional method of the malting process for barley. So it was something that we had to do, obviously with Jeff being such deeply rooted within the scotch industry. But he wanted to do that with a lot of care because as with anything Japanese and Japanese whiskeys, you don't see these big overly pungent intense flavors.
You see everything very, very, even very, very balanced and just not overpowering any other characteristic within the whiskey. So the way that our repeated whiskeys were accomplished was first by using Madeira. So now we're going to get back to, you're talking about Madeira. We lay down our new make into Madeira cast for just about two years, maybe a little bit over two years. And then from there they were transferred to Ms. Anana and that Ms. Anana portion would last. The first edition was about maybe five and a half years pushing six second Ion was a little bit older, pushing six and so forth. But what you have is that Madeira helps sooth and lessen the bite and intensity of that initial peat hit because everyone who's had whiskeys from Isla can certainly say they're certainly buddy. You think of your art bags and your la Fres and you're like a villains.
They're certainly intense, especially people who may not enjoy that kind of kind of smoke character, but that Madeira really just helps round and just soothe that. So it becomes a very, almost a refreshing smoke if there is such a descriptor. So you have the Madeira sweetness playing with the mazzara sweetness and those fruit characters. So you up with this very, very well balanced, almost like a barbecue sweet type of smoke. I kind of liken it to a mesquite flavor. So it's made the repeated very, very popular, scored very well on a number of reviews all over the certain groups that would be obviously looking at whiskeys. So it's great because it's, I've been able to pour that at events to people who may not be so far into the pita category as you were saying, you would use Highland Park to maybe help get them in there or push 'em over the edge and people have gone and sampled RP and go, wow, this is not nearly as intense as I was going to expect. And it's helped kind of broaden and open their eyes to another style of whiskey they may not have enjoyed before.
Yeah, so it's interesting that you bring up that barbecue note because I actually pulled that, it's one of the notes I pulled out of this on the pallet. I listed it as sweet pork barbecue, and I'm like, I never tasted anything like that in a whiskey before, but I was like, the first time I tasted it, I'm like, I know that taste. I know that taste. And then I'm, God, sometimes tasting notes are still tough for me. I mean, I've really only been focusing on tasting for about two years and really diving in. And so I try to connect things and I try to take references I know and then break them down and say absolutely. At first I say, okay, it smells floral to me. And then I have to dig a little bit more in and say, what kind of floral? Is there a particular flower?
Is there a particular sensation, something that helps me take it a little bit deeper? And I think that's what I love about complex whiskeys because it forces me to have to dive in, hunt and then I missed something, or maybe I connect the dots between this and this between tasting today and tasting next week. And suddenly I go, oh, wait, no, I know what that is. And then it all comes together. And with Japanese whiskey, there has been, and I'm not getting it in this, but there has been a commonality of a note that I'm just not familiar with. And so you mentioned sandalwood, and that's not something that's ascent I'm probably overly familiar with at this point. How do you introduce those new flavors and scents to a public that is used to scotch or is to bourbon or something else?
I think one of the best ways to look at it, because when the first time when I was first getting my mind wrapped around msar whiskeys and I was coming into working with them, and you described it perfectly because I used the same exact analogies and the idea of starting broad in a tasting sense and kind of working your way down. And I was always using that. I said if I would do seminars, it would be for everybody to say, okay, are you tasting sweet? Are you taking tasting spicy? Are you tasting floral? And then go, okay, what kind of sweet is it? Is it a candy sweetness? Is it a fruit sweetness? And then just try to get that extra little step into something a little more precise. And that was just the way I'd always thought about it. That's the way I was kind of taught.
And then I was actually in a seminar here in the States and John Campbell from La Freud was over and he was working his way through the whiskeys, and he said almost the exact same thing verbatim as we just said. And I went, okay, if that's what he's saying, I feel pretty good about keeping that same suggestion for people that might attend an event that I'm going to help take them through and went, okay, awesome. If John Campbell's saying it, then yeah, let's keep with it. So to go back specifically as far as the sandalwood sense goes, it is a very peculiar flavor and that you don't see that very often or an aroma rather because with Ms, an Nara, you hear always people talk about a vanilla character in almost any whiskey. I would say almost, it doesn't matter if it's going to be obviously much more heavy and prominent and bourbon, but certainly be a component in almost any single malt scotch.
But what kind of vanilla are you talking about? And within that sandalwood, it has that certainly oak spice to it, and it brings in this idea of vanilla, but it's not the vanilla that we think about with bourbon. It's not that more heavy syrup sense of vanilla, it's much more of a floral, almost kind of like an incense style. And so equating that incense it, I think it helps put a better idea of sandalwood together. For some people that may end up, they're not probably sticking their noses down a meina cask or walking through a Home depot and where can I find sandalwood? Yeah, yeah,
Exactly. It's going to cost you a lot. Lumber's expensive these days. Sorry. Yeah,
Yeah, absolutely. Especially if you wanted to make a house at of bizz, that's going to be a very tall
But yeah, I think just working with those more general descriptors like you had just mentioned, but then kind of putting that in perspective and then saying, okay, there are other kinds of vanilla out there. There's not just the one being done. And it does help put a picture together, especially when there's been a number of people who have written some great books, descriptors of Ms. Zara, and they talk about this is the smell of Japan, it's the smell of the temples that you see. So it really puts together this mind's eye and it introduces that idea of a terroir scenario where something is very, very definitive Japan. So obviously using this species of oak and these mear oak trees, it just helps bring it all together and put it all into that trip. You can take just through a glass.
Yeah, I think exposure to maybe it's a trip to a Japanese restaurant and trying some things you haven't tried before. A good example would be that a friend of mine introduced me to Lapsang Soong Tea, which is a black tea that comes from Japan, China, and it's a smoky tea. It's a black smoky tea and has a very distinct flavor to it. And when I first tasted this whiskey, I said black tea, but after tasting that specific black tea, now that's the black tea that I'm tasting in here. Because there's also that little hint of smoke that's coming in on top of it. And for me it's just this really nice way to finish this whiskey because it lingers there. And then afterwards, if I want to go stop sipping on whiskey and go have some tea, I can continue the experience on with this other flavor. But it's this exposure issue I think that is going to make a journey into Japanese whiskey. An interesting one, and maybe a little challenging on the tasting and nosing of a Japanese whiskey.
It does, it's going to keep people engaged, at least I hope they'll keep them engaged with it and kind of do exactly what we were saying as far as, okay, how can I connect that through the memory banks? What does that remind me of? Or then later if they do something, oh, that was the notes that we were trying to get earlier. And that note of black tea that you're mentioning. So you had been sipping on our flagship, what we just called a msar oak, our signature expression, a very, very black label, although we try not to refer to it as the black label because that's Johnny Walker. Johnny Walker,
And we don't want to have to worry about, and if their legal department contacts us, if I refer to it as the black label, but obviously it's state, it works beautifully in a bar because you can see it clear across the room. But with our cast strength expression, that was one of the first notes. This black teeth you're mentioning was something I found immediately, and that was one of the first times when I was being person introduced to these whiskeys. I thought that was such a unique component that I had never seen experienced before in a whiskey.
So this is the single cast, 14 0 2 46 A B V. And so it's basically, as you're saying, it's still a first fill barrel. Yes. It this is from a single cask versus this, which is a married blend of whiskeys.
Correct. And this would be a little bit maybe slightly older with our signature with the black label right now on the shelf, you'd be seeing whiskey that is about, say eight years old, maybe eight and a half, but it is all full term Ms. Nara, whereas the single barrel that you have that would be more along like nine, almost maybe nine and a half. So a bit more time. And I think with those two whiskeys back to back, you might just in the overall mouth feel, there might be a richer character that you're finding just a bit more of a depth and creaminess. And obviously that's to do with maybe a little bit higher of the A B V as well, only talking 3%, but it's certainly can showcase just those little intricate differences where they may lie.
Yeah, these whiskeys are really interesting because it's a lot of whiskeys I will judge as soon as they hit my palate. And that's where usually I find the pleasure in a whiskey pleasant finish is a nice bonus. But on these, I tend to almost look forward to the finish because so many other things seem to be going on in your mouth as you're sitting there contemplating the whiskey after you've, you've tasted it.
Absolutely. I think these whiskeys develop very nicely just as you would think about decanter for a wine to let it kind of breathe. It's only been over the last say year to six months, where I've spent a lot more time noticing just for whatever bottle I may go buy for myself and purchased for my private selection, how much difference the first pore out of the neck can be to actually letting a little bit of air into that bottle or just letting that glass sit for a while and just kind of let it breathe a little bit just like you would a line. And I've been spending a much more time trying to pick up those differences and seeing that there's a lot of whiskey out there that does react that way. And it's kind of something that I never considered too much before. Obviously if something was very drastically different, you could pick it up, but to kind of take that extra little bit of time and pour, maybe have a nose and go back, let it sit for 20, 30 minutes, then go back and start tasting it. It's been a lot of fun to see where those differences begin to happen with certain whiskeys and some do, some don't. Maybe as, but that's been my latest in keeping myself on that geek level. Yeah.
So again, this one ends up being very subtle because I pick up, I get what you're saying about the vanilla, that it doesn't hit you vanilla flavoring. It definitely has a much more kind of a floral a experience to it. And so it's lighter it, you kind of have to look for it.
And then the mouth feels really nice. And this, he's proofing this down, I'm assuming, to get it to 46,
Yep. It's double distilled.
Yes. Everything within the whole entire of our whiskeys is double pot stilled. The only whiskey that is not is our expression called the single, our seven year old. That is done coffee still all malted barley. But it has shown well for that particular how we mature that whiskey, which is a bourbon mature Ms Zara finish that has shown to be the sweet spot and the right combination to get the flavors that we're looking for.
Yeah, there's almost like I get a little egg custard in there, and as I let it roll down the sides of my tongue, that is where I'm really getting it when I'm first tasting it. And the first time I sip this one, actually, I wasn't getting the black tea, but the second sip of it now that black tea is starting to show up on, but it's again, it's subtle. It's not as expressive probably as it is here. It really lingers on that one. And that's the fun of a single cask. I mean, oh yeah, it is going to be a different experience. I mean, I've tasted this. Nobody can probably go out and buy this exact cask. Maybe there's a bottle out there somewhere, but
If you happen to be up in Massachusetts, there might be a bottle or two left. But yeah, those particular ones and the program was all around the country. So there are certainly other single barrels of cayo out there. But for as far as that exact one goes, and I can even tell you that personally 1402 just happened to be a very special cask for Jeff. And when these are being released, he wanted to make sure that some bottles of that particular Casper were set aside. Okay, nice. So he took a very big liking and personally favored 1402.
I actually had a trip planned to go out to Japan last summer, which of course didn't quite work out. But I feel like once I'm there and I'm going to the different distilleries and I'm being exposed to all of these different tastes that Japanese whiskey will more click in my head. But there's too many people I think that think, well, all Japanese whiskey is the same, all scotch whiskey is the same, all bourbon is the same depending on where you're coming from. And it's fun to see that you guys are taking a different approach to it and that you are creating a flavor profile here, which fits in with Japan, I guess you could say, in everybody's using terroir as a term these days. It has elements of that that that's going to give you the character of Japan. But you're doing it in your own way. You're creating something very interesting to expand people's appreciation of whiskey.
Definitely. And I think in a very interesting way to circle back and bring it all together, that is very much a just overall Japanese philosophy. It's an idea and a mindset for them and what they've done so well with so many things, whether it be beverage or food, pick the industry you want, but they are going to find the best qualities about something and then do their best to put their, I'm not going to say spin on it, but they're going to refine it and they're going to just take the best parts and put it back together again. And then that by itself ends up becoming Japanese. So it's it, it's a very wild world, especially like I said, coming back to no one would maybe think right off the bat that you have an American at the helm of these whiskeys, but he very much embodies everything that Japan has. And like I say, he just wanted to make the best whiskey that he could. And this is the result of that. It ended up taking this route, working with whiskey out of Japan and Japanese wood. And then here we are, Cayo.
Talk about where you guys are available and what your product line is at this point. We know the, we'll call it the matte black label because it's Matt, the
Matt Black label. I
Like that. Yeah. It's not the black label, it's the Matt Black label where this is available through the US and what other products you actually have out right now.
It's very widely available, which all across the country, internationally too. I've just been in communications, even though I work here in the us, I still get to see the talkings of where the whiskey is being sent and opened up all over the rest of the world, which is a lot of fun to see. Again, a growing, but that map, blag label, the signature or the 43 as we tend to call it, that is the most widely available. That's the one that people tend to see the most easiest. The cast strength offering, which is just the bigger brother. It's matured the exact same way, exact same timeframe as the signature just kept that cast strength. So still around that eight, nine year mark as far as the whiskey is going.
And that's Mary, that's not a single cast.
That correct. That would be a marriage of casts going into that. And that's got a cream colored label to it with a bit of a reddish font. And then we have the single, which is a seven year old whiskey that is the whiskey that is produced in a column still, I said still all barley, but in a column still matured in first fill Kentucky Bourbon, then finished in Ms. Nara. However, about a little over a year ago, we added one more step in the casking maturation process. And what you would see right now on the shelves, and this is also very widely available almost everywhere across the country, we added a step of using a Tennessee whiskey barrel. So if you can imagine the process and the money it took to transfer these whiskeys, because it was all just from Miss Peril to that part, to that one starts in Ms.
Nara, I'm sorry, starts, starts in, starts in first Phil Bourn goes to Ms. Zara as a finish and then going to first Phil Tennessee whiskey. That's a lot of changing hands, but it would never have happened if we just weren't experimenting and messing around. And that's what Jeff loves to do this, if there's an opportunity to make something better just like the Japanese, he wants to see it through and see what's going to happen. And that was an experiment that was started in our office in New Jersey where we got our hands on a Tennessee whiskey barrel. I'm not going to say who, but there's only two big players. And people can kind of fig figure out which
Of the two it may be,
Which of the two we're getting. But we literally took prac that was already bottled our single segment as it was, and just dumped it in the barrel. And we sat on it and just kind of let it see what was going to happen. And what happened was all the flavors and notes that were there, they stayed, but they just became even bigger. And the Tennessee whiskey just made even more of this cream note and it pushed the vanillas and the fruit and the coconut, obviously the vanillas that you would consider at the forefront of America milk. Yeah, it just pushed everything that much more like a black or a white pepper spice. It's a great whiskey for mixing cocktails just because we bottle that at 48%. So it's this beautiful, clean, fresh, bright whiskey. It's awesome for the summer months and can hold a backbone too if you want to make a whiskey sour or an old fashion or do a highball because obviously people have, they, as they've been home, they're getting much more open to the idea of fixing cocktails themselves so you don't lose the new ounces of the whiskey.
So it's an amazing whiskey on its own as a sipper. Great to be, great to be mixed with too. So I should say, and that's actually the least expensive, it's the most expensive for us to produce because it changes casks so many times, but it's the least expensive in the family. So hopefully for those out there that where they have the whiskey available to them, be right around the $50 range. So especially for someone with an American minded palette, American whiskey man, a palette good. It's a great step in to seeing what the Japanese character of whiskey is like. And then I mentioned we have our repeated, that was a special edition run that we've had a couple of, and then we also had our Sherry for the drinkers out there who love their space side, Sherry bomb's, single malt scotches, that is definitely a bottle.
There's still a few out there in the wild, but that was a very, very small limited production run. We did two additions. The first edition only yielded about 500 cases worldwide. The second edition only yielded about 400, 450 cases worldwide. And that's a whiskey that for those that appreciate the flare profiles of say Glenro or Glen Farks that embody that big, she robust richness, it's all that, but with the Meara, okay. Mixed in the very heart of it. So it takes those tropical notes in that sandalwood and also that black tea character, and it puts it right in the heart nice of that whiskey. So that's a very special whiskey. Again, like I said, it was a very limited run and Jeff was very, very proud of that when that whiskey first came to be so much that he was considering it to be out of all the whiskeys that he's ever worked with and created and had a hand in. Yeah, that has been his crowning achievement as he thought it to be as far as that he was able to create this. Yeah, so much that it's whiskey that he put extra aside so that when his daughters are older and when they get married, that's the whiskey he wants to celebrate with. Nice. So for the master to still, or not the master blender to say this is wedding day whiskey, that speaks pretty volumes of what's in the bottles.
Well, thanks for sharing some great whiskey with me and for again, the patience in waiting through all of this. I'm glad I got to finally enjoy these with full senses, and I look forward to seeing what you guys do down the road. And if you get a distillery going, then I need to know about it because when I go to Japan, it's definitely going to be one that's going to be on my way. Oh, we
Most definitely will. And it's going to happen. And just unfortunately with so many things that Covid has adjusted, that was one of those, because at the end of the day, the whiskey to get bottled and out the door was the top priority, but we most certainly have a distillery, and when we do, there's obviously going to be a big party.
Absolutely. Well, I definitely have to say cheers and thanks for sharing all your thoughts and information and the history, and I look forward to seeing what you guys do in the future.
Thank you so much here. This was a pleasure.
And if you want to learn more about Cayo, then just head to cayo whiskey.com and for whiskey lore, show notes, transcripts, hoodies, tasting notes, or links to whiskey lore, social media, head to whiskey lore.com. Don't forget, season five of the Whiskey Lore podcast is started coming up this week, we've got stories of scandals, deception, and even murder as I start an epic miniseries on the whiskey trust. Remember, whiskey lore is on your favorite podcast app. I'm your host, drew Hanish. Have a great week, and until next time, cheers. And Lan Ofk JVA Whiskey, lores of production of Travel Fuel's Life, L L C.