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American whiskey aged in mizunara oak launches

Washington State-based Bainbridge Organic Distillers has launched the first non-Japanese whisky aged exclusively in virgin Japanese mizunara oak casks.

Yama
Bainbridge Yama Mizunara Cask Whiskey is thought to be the world’s first non-Japanese whisky exclusively aged in virgin mizunara oak

Set for release in spring 2016, Bainbridge Yama Mizunara Cask Whiskey has been exclusively aged in wood harvested from the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido.

After harvest the Mizunara oak is quarter-sawn and then air-dried in Japan for at least three years. When it has fully seasoned, Bainbridge Organic Distillers imports the wood to the US, where a family-owned cooperage turns the oak into barrels.

The whiskey itself is described as an organic “American single grain barely”. Bainbridge uses organic Full Pint and Alba barley grown in Washington State’s Skagit Valley, and also yeast traditionally used for the creation of Scotch whisky.

“Obtaining stocks of this rare and sought-after wood, and bringing this special whiskey to fruition, has taken more than six years and the efforts of many people both here in America and in Japan”, said distillery owner and master distiller Keith Barnes.

“It has been an effort fueled by friendship, passion, determination and an unbelievable amount of hard work by all those involved. But once we stood back to look at the accomplishment, and taste the whiskey, it’s been worth every effort we’ve made.”

Bainbridge Yama Mizunara Cask Whiskey, bottled at 45% abv, is said to have a flavour of nutmeg, clove, pear, and wood, settling out to honeyed vanilla and toasted marshmallow.

The whiskey takes its name from the small village of Yama founded on Bainbridge Island, Washington State, by Japanese immigrants in the 1880s.

Today, the Yama village site represents the last undisturbed Issei (First Generation Japanese immigrant) village site in the US not destroyed by development.

Barnes has therefore pledged to donate profits from Bainbridge Yama Mizunara Cask Whiskey to Bainbridge Island Historical Museum, supporting ongoing efforts to preserve Yama’s history.

Just 200 bottles of the whiskey will be released globally this spring.

In August last year, Beam Suntory launched the first Islay Scotch whisky finished in mizunara oak casks – Bowmore Mizunara Cask Finish.

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