What we’re drinking: A range of single-grain Japanese whiskies from Teitessa, aged between 15 and 30 years
Where they’re from: Iconic Spirits, co-founded by Julious Grant — a drinks industry vet who’s also behind Omage, a California brandy we profiled recently — and his business partner Taichi Seki, most recently at Asahi but, interestingly, a former professional kickboxer and MMA fighter
Why we’re drinking these: “I was the chief commercial officer at Beam Suntory, so I used to go to Japan two or three times a year,” explained Grant. “I fell in love with Japanese whisky and the culture.”
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But Grant wanted a unique profile for his own whisky blend. Teitessa’s big claim is that they’re crafting whisky a bit differently from the way they do it in Scotland (which, in turn, is the same process used by most Japanese distilleries). Instead, they utilize the Sato still.
“It’s been around since 1905,” says Grant. “It’s shaped more like a beehive. So it has a better balance of the tail and the heads — it creates a more rounded flavor.” The distillery also utilizes a high-end rice grain called Koshihikarias and ages the whisky in a variety of barrels, including Spanish, American white and Limousin oak.
Teitessa also has a blended whisky and a pure malt, but for now, we tried the five expressions of the single-grain.
How they taste: The 15- and the 25-year expressions are aged only in American white oak. Both are wonderfully balanced and a little fruity and nutty, but the older expression offers more complexity and a wonderful vanilla sweetness.
Meanwhile, the 20-, 27- and 30-year expressions utilize three different barrel types. They veer a bit more toward the fruity and floral (and a slightly more pronounced oakiness), with a nice cocoa note underneath. The 30-year is the standout, with a rich particularly rich mouthfeel.
Overall, if you like the balance and approachability of older Japanese whiskies but not the four- or five-figure sticker shock that comes with them (see below), then Tietessa might be your best option in the growing category — although supply is limited.
Fun fact: We don’t drink a lot of strawberry gin, admittedly, but Iconic also puts an exceptional take called Awayuki, crafted from rare white and pink Japanese strawberries grown in the Nara Prefecture. “The strawberries we use come from a guy who sells them, each strawberry, for $25,” says Grant. “We get the stock that isn’t [aesthetically] perfect.” (Note: Iconic also makes yuzu- and lychee-infused vodkas).
Where to buy: All the Teitessa whiskies are available for around $199-$300
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