Shinobu Japanese Whisky

Klaire McCallum


Shinobu, the Japanese word for “forbearance,” is so called because of the distillery’s goal of encapsulating the spirit of the Samurai. The first distillery in Niigata, a region known for its “Three White Treasures” (snow, rice, and sake), Shinobu takes the best casks of whisky and finishes aging the whisky in Mizunara oak.

Mizunara oak is special because rather than being a popular international import, like ex-Bourbon or ex-Sherry casks have become, it is indigenous Japanese oak. While first used in the 1930s, this oak didn’t come into prominence for ageing whisky until after WW2 when the aftermath of the war meant that bourbon casks for ageing whisky in were fairly low on the priority list when it came to international imports.

Not the easiest of wooden casks to work with, Mizunara oak is prone to leaking and is extremely porous, not to mention the trees need to be more than 200 years old before they can successfully make a cask due to the trees’ unruly growth patterns. Because of the difficulties that casks made from Japanese oak present, most Mizunara-aged whisky is first aged in Bourbon or Sherry casks, then transferred to Mizunara oak to finish ageing.

Mizunara oak imparts bold flavours like vanilla, clove, nutmeg, incense, coconut, honey, blossom, and pear.

Shinobu Blended Whisky $63

50% Malt and 50% Grain, this whisky is expertly blended to create a silky, buttery whisky, that finishes with a pleasant bitterness and lots of woody flavours. Blending Whisky is an art that takes patience and precision, both qualities that master distiller, Mr. Ken Usami, holds dear when making Shinobu’s blended whisky. In blending malt and grain whisky, the blender must know how the different products will interact with each other and with wood they are to be aged in, and most importantly, how the components of the blend will come together as a whole. It is a tricky process, that can result in superbly elegant whisky. Expect a candied-nut sweetness, coupled with buttery coconut, sandalwood, and vanilla. Shinobu Blended Whisky is a tasty, easy-to-like Japanese whisky at a great price point!

Shinobu Pure Malt Whisky $100

Like a Single Malt, Pure Malt whisky is made 100% from malted barley, but is usually sourced from multiple distilleries, as is the case with Shinobu’s Pure Malt Whisky. Pure Malt is no longer a recognized term in the world of Scotch, however many Japanese distilleries are using the term to describe their malted barley blends. Much like their Blended Whisky, Shinobu seeks out the best casks of whisky from around Japan and blends them to create a well-rounded spirit suitable to be aged in the distinctive Mizunara oak casks. Shinobu Pure Malt Whisky is a classy sipper that is full of subtle vanilla, plum, citrusy smoke, mint, and peppery spice. Drink up!