Review: Nine Leaves Encrypted III

Nine Leaves is a Japanese micro-distillery founded in 2013 by Yoshiharu Takeuchi in order to present Japanese Craftmanship to the world under the form of Japanese rum. Built in Otsu, Shiga Prefecture, the location was chosen for it’s pure, soft mineral water.

Takeuchi’s family crest is made up of nine bamboo leaves, and his plan is to pass along the rum making skill to his family so he decided to use the crest as inspiration for his company name – Nine Leaves.

Update: one of the things that make this rum fairly unique (but potentially controversial), is the fact that it’s not made from molasses or fresh sugarcane juice, but from jaggery (confusingly translated on the Nine Leaves website as “brown sugar”) which is basically dehydrated sugarcane juice/non-centrifugal sugar (similar to panela). The reasoning being that he wanted to “discard the variable or off-flavour from sugar cane juice and molasses, and to enhance the clear, refined sweetness” – taken from the website.

The fermentation of the jaggery wash usually lasts about 4 days before distillation. The Nine Leaves Distillery operates two small Forsyths pot stills, one for distilling the wash and the other for the spirit distillation. Most of the rums coming from Nine Leaves are quite young (under 1 year), but with the Encrypted range Takeuchi went a step further in developing flavours and complexity by using a multitude of casks and finishes.

I want to give The Lone Caner a shout as his article about the Nine Leaves company was very helpful in writing this review.

From what I could understand, from the website and Master Distiller Yoshiharu Takeuchi, Encrypted III is jaggery based, distilled in small pot stills and then comprised of a blend of rums aged in 6 different casks: two different PX casks, ex-Bourbon cask, Cabernet Sauvignon cask, Chardonnay cask and a small amount from a “secret rum” matured in a Russian oak cask (although I don’t have any more details on the type of cask). The rums are between 1 and 3 years old, so still young, but given the specs I have to say that a lot of experimentation and work went into this. As the other two Encrypted, this is a limited release, bottled at 58% ABV and unadulterated. I’m very excited to try this.

On the nose it resembles an aged agricole with a bit of heavy Caroni in it. Prunes, red grapes, toast, peanut butter, dusty old books, caramelized bananas and nutmeg. As expected there’s a muscovado sugar flavour coming out as well. A bit of grassiness in the background and very mineral upfront. Sea salt, black pepper, cinnamon buns, sultanas, dark chocolate, anise and wood… for a young rum, there are a lot of woody tanins on the nose. A very strong Oloroso-like smell which is very inviting.

On the palate it reminds me of an Enmore distillate. Cacao butter, vanilla, liquorice, blood orange, maple syrup, walnuts, coffee, a fairly strong black tea, hazelnut, cider and a blanco vermouth-like aroma. Blackcurrant, red grapes, ripe banana, apricots, peaches, a bit of strawberry jam and raisins. A nice peaty smoke in the back of the mouth. Caramel, tobacco, black pepper, cinnamon, hints of cucumber and mint. In a blind tasting I would’ve thought this is mainly a Guyanese rum blended with something lighter. Has a stout-y note to it as well. Upfront there’s like an explosion of flavour, but unfortunately the finish ends up being shorter than I was expecting. A medium finish with a dry fortified wine note, coffee and a touch of smoke.

Sweet and rich fading towards dry and spicy. My only nitpick would be the lack in the finish, but in hindsight this is a 1 to 3 years old rum, so considering that, this is a fantastic rum with a very unique flavour profile. You can still find a bottle at The Whisky Exchange for £90 (the ABV stated on their website is wrong). It’s worth trying at least once for sure!

Nine Leaves Encrypted III score:
Flavour/taste: 60/70
Value for money: 14/15
Transparency/purity: 15/15
Overall: 89/100

Cheers!

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