The Oak and the Reeds
A VERY LARGE OAK was uprooted by the wind and thrown across a stream. It fell among some Reeds, which it thus addressed: “I wonder how you, who are so light and weak, are not entirely crushed by these strong winds.” They replied, “You fight and contend with the wind, and consequently you are destroyed; while we on the contrary bend before the least breath of air, and therefore remain unbroken, and escape.” Aesop
Obviously, there are a number of takeaways in this piece of flash fiction, not the least of which is “better not to resist the demands of authoritarians or you will come to regret it.” The oak does not bow to his “betters”—the wind; therefore, he is toppled. One could also argue, of course, that the oak falls—dies—only once, but the ever-accommodating reeds are constantly trampled upon. But wait a minute! We are getting far too philosophical here. So let’s look at another takeaway: the oak is one hell of a strong tree!
The oak is indeed mighty both in its strength and longevity and with respect to the central role it plays in the production of some alcoholic beverages. True, there are other trees that lend their flavors to wines and the like (e.g., chestnut, pine), but oak is indisputably the most important. Personally, one of us at drinkingjapan.org will not even look at an unoaked Chardonnay!
The king of oaks—the boss of bosses, so to speak—is French oak, followed by American, which is popular with those sherry producers in Jerez. There are oak trees in Japan, of course, but one doesn’t often hear about Japanese oak in the drinks context. This is almost certainly because Japanese oak (mizunara) is really difficult to work with. Barrels made therefrom have a higher rate of leakage than their overseas counterparts, for instance.
Nevertheless, domestic examples of its use can be found, and now a heavy hitter in the world of Scotch has produced a version of its blended whisky with a Japanese-oak finish. We are talking about Chivas Regal’s Mizunara Special Edition Blended Scotch Whisky (Aged 12 Years), which has been “selectively finished in mizunara oak casks.”
We sampled this wonderful product recently and found it to be redolent of vanilla and honey, with subtle floral notes. The mouthfeel was pleasant and substantial. We then juxtaposed the Mizunara with what we will call standard Chivas Regal (Aged 12 Years) and found a noticeable difference. Aside from having a deeper color, the Japanese-oak-finished whisky was somewhat sweeter and mellower. We tasted both straight, of course, which in our opinion is the best way to drink whisky!
Recommendation level (out of five stars):
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