Japanese Mizunara Oak

Deeply rooted in Japanese history, the Japanese Mizunara Oak has traditionally never been the choice of whisky producers. In recent years, it has become one of the most prestigious types of wood used in the production of casks for aging alcohol, and adding its name to the whisky label can make it disappear from store shelves very quickly. Much rarer and more expensive than American and European oak, Mizunara oak is currently the object of interest to connoisseurs and whisky producers all over the world.

At the end of World War II, Japan faced a shortage of medicines, food and other everyday items. At a time like this, the inability to import whisky casks was one of the country's least important problems. However, whisky was very popular with the occupying troops, so whisky makers were forced to start using their native oak, the Mizunara Oak.

Characteristics of the Mizunara oak

Japanese oak is extremely difficult to use in the production of whisky aging casks.

It has a much higher humidity than other types of oak, which is even reflected in its name: "Mizu-nara" can be translated as "water oak". This significantly extends the drying phase of the wood to make it suitable for the production of casks. Another challenge is that the Mizunara oak does not have a straight growth and tends to grow twisted, making it difficult to create casks from its wood. Mizunara oak takes around 200 years to grow before it can be used to make casks. Some of the larger distilleries have access to forests, but local authorities often suspend logging operations to help the forests recover. Finally, Mizunara wood is more porous than other types of oak, making casks prone to leakage. Japanese oak also has the lowest concentration of tannins of any kind of oak available for cask production, which reduces the likelihood of wood influencing the flavour of the distillate too much.

Despite all these challenges, Mizunara oak gives whisky an interesting and distinctive taste, which makes the casks made of it one of the most expensive and desirable on the market.

Whiskey aged in Mizunara oak

Properly maturing whisky matured in Japanese oak casks gives a distinctive, sweet and spicy flavour, with notes of sandalwood, coconut and vanilla, as well as Japanese Kara incense.

Mizunara Oak offers a complex range of aromas with a sweet and spicy flavour profile unmatched by other types of oak. In the early stages of maturing, the taste of oak is very intense, and with longer maturation, it opens up a completely new palette of more delicate aromas.

Right now, Mizunara oak is highly valued and perceived as luxurious, one of the rarest and most expensive oak species in the world. One of the biggest promoters of Japanese oak is Suntory, which uses it for the most luxurious editions of blended and single malt whisky. It is worth noting that the Mizunara oak is very difficult to buy, even in Japan. This is why whisky producers usually only use Mizunar casks to finish their limited, exclusive bottles.

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