Shibui Pushes the Bounds of Rice Whisky With its Innovative Range

Shibui aspires to be recognized as a brand that takes an innovative approach to Japanese rice whisky, perhaps seen in the same light as Compass Box with blended scotch or High West with bourbon and rye. Shibui draws on a wide variety of cask types to produce a range with distinct personalities, and regards these products as grain whiskies, though they originate from a number of distilleries specializing in awamori, a traditional distilled rice spirit that has been made on Okinawa since the 15th century. Awamori is made from long-grain Indica rice fermented in a single step with an indigenous black koji mold and yeast, and has a strong tradition of being aged before consumption.

Discover The Flavor Possibilities of Cask-finished Rice Whisky

Shibui 15 year old Sherry Cask Matured
92 points, 43%, $216

Double distillation in stainless steel produces a higher filling strength than single distillation, which may account for the naturally dark color and rich flavors here. From Masahiro Distillery, this carries caramelized sugars, orange oil, blackberry, allspice, ground ginger, and dried pineapple on the nose. Flavors of dark fruits, cocoa powder, chocolate, plum, cherry, blackberry, and pepper; more body and intensity than other Shibui and it gets deliciously nuttier as it dilutes.

shibui 30 year old single grain whiskyShibui 30 year old
91 points, 43%, $1,069

Aromas of fresh orange peel burst with tart acidity, mixed with milk chocolate, stone fruit, peppercorns, chile flakes, five spice, and red Twizzlers. A lithe and supple character of mandarin and runny caramels on the palate, with elements of walnut and gentle spices, then developing greater tanginess, creaminess, and red berry fruits. Longevity is quite attainable with rice whiskies, though don’t expect them to match the body and texture of 30 year old malts.

shibui 8 year old single grain whiskyShibui 8 year old Small Batch Sherry Cask Matured
90 points, 40%, $146

Manzanilla and fino casks were selected to mature this elegant single-distilled rice whisky from Shinzato Distillery, instilling it with delicate sherrywood flavors of plum flesh, damson jam, dried apricot, sticky dates, and fine dry spices. This builds slowly on the palate, so don’t rush it: citrus zest, peppery spice, clove, orange Jell-O, mixed peel, and dried apricot before departing with a long lingering aftertaste.

shibui 18 year old single grain whiskyShibui 18 year old Sherry Cask Matured
89 points, 40%, $300

Shibui’s only bottling from Kumesen Distillery is single distilled in a stainless steel still and matured in manzanilla and fino casks. More oakiness on the nose, with milk chocolate, dried cranberry, slightly bitter cherry notes, hints of toffee, and muted wood spices. Citrus freshness, vanilla fudge, gingersnap spiciness, licorice, walnut, and fresh fig, with a finish of lime and green melon, imply the influence of the lighter-style sherries.

shibui 10 year old white oak cask single grain whiskyShibui 10 year old Virgin White Oak Matured
89 points, 43%, $170

Ripe fresh-fruit aromas of watermelon, strawberry, red gooseberry, fresh plum, and coconut strips, with a hint of orange peel singed over a flame. This whisky was double distilled in stainless steel at Masahiro Distillery and tastes gently fruity with blueberry, black currant juice, red fruits, stewed apple, clove, and pepper, tempering to cranberry and orange, then a flare of spice over orange fondant to signify the finish.

shibui 10 year old bourbon cask single grain whiskyShibui 10 year old Bourbon Cask Matured
88 points, 40%, $170

Single distilled in Shinzato Distillery’s stainless-steel still, the nose is replete with bourbon-barrel character including vanilla, honey, toasted oak, generous wood spices, fresh cream, and lemon zest. The mouthfeel is light, with honey, maple syrup, vanilla, a slight nuttiness, glazed doughnuts, ground ginger, and pepper, with hints of milk chocolate on the finish

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