Karuizawa 1980 – Coming Your Way Soon

Specialty Drinks is continuing to bottle single cask Karuizawa expressions, of which stocks are now down to below 50 casks,  and The Whisky Show is the showcase for the new expressions each year. Last year it was the two Geisha labels (reviewed here) and the utterly stunning 1981 vintage, which I reviewed here, and sadly didn’t win the right to buy a bottle.

This Karuizawa was available to taste as a dream dram at the show, where a second bottling of a single cask with a 50 bottle outturn was bottled for the Nepal Appeal, and “given” to 45 participants who paid £6000 each for the ticket, the proceeds of which went to five charities working in Nepal. Additionally, two bottles went on auction, with the proceeds going to charity as well. The two auction bottles went for £9000 in one auction and for £9700 in the other. The tasting raised £225,000 for charity, with the auctions probably pushing the appeal to just over £240,000. All in all, this is a very worthy way of dispensing with an almost empty cask.

© Simon J Hanna      Photo Credit: blog.thewhiskyexchange.com

Back to our 1980 expression. This whisky isn’t out yet, but it will be made available for purchase to those who attended The Whisky Show, after last year’s show was disrupted by visitors checking into the show and running out to queue for a bottle at the store (see my review of last year’s day one here). Therefore, a drawing will be held for the right to purchase a bottle when it’s put up for sale. It is a single cask, but no information on the cask itself was revealed, although I can safely state that this is a sherry cask, as you’ll see from the notes.

How is it?

Photo Credit: whiskyshow.com

Photo Credit: whiskyshow.com

Karuizawa Vintage 1980 (61.6% ABV, NCF, NC)

Appearance: Dark mahogany, viscous and sticky on the glass leaving a perfect necklace.

Nose: Gentle oak on the nose, sherry, prunes, perfume in the background, varnish, warm wood spices and a general feeling of an old spice shop.

Palate: Massive oaky hit, then concentrated stewed fruit, jasmine, a sour/vinegary note and a note of prune jam. This is a big dram in the mouth with very strong and pronounced flavors.

Linger: Long, dry and very oaky with white pepper and notes of violet.


A classic, big Karuizawa, with A LOT of the cask in the liquid. It packs a punch, not just in the high ABV, but in the bold, in your face, flavors. Like most older Karuizawas, this is one for lovers of tannins.

Isn’t it a shame most of the bottles will never actually be opened?


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