I was sorely tempted to title this review “And now for something completely different” but I’m trying to avoid cliches. Anyway, this is… Something completely different.
Joker is from Murashige Shuzo, the Iwakuni kura responsible for the very good Kinkan Kuromatsu sake label, but I would hesitate to call it sake. The label says “Sake containing extra alcohol,” and it is apparently 30% ABV. The label doesn’t go into the brewing process in detail, but it’s apparently sake with added brewer’s alcohol that is aged in oak bourbon barrels. I’m not sure how long, and I’m not sure if the barrels have been used to age bourbon, or if they’re just made in the same way (charred oak).
The first thing I notice is the color. It’s a nice honey-gold, and I’m reminded of koshu already. The aroma is also a koshu aroma, remeniscent of shiitake mushrooms and a mild cheesiness, with a a hint of smokey oak.
And the flavor is right on those lines. It most definitely treads the line between koshu and bourbon; it has that rich umami of a decent koshu, with notes of dry fruit and some cheese sharpness, with the oak notes and just a hint of bourbon sweetness.
I’m 100% confused by this drink. It’s a spirit, it is not sake. It is not whisky, but you could drink it like one. And I think it could become a habit. It has an originality to it that I like, and the flavors are definitely pleasant. I mean, for a real bourbon fan this might not satisfy, but for someone who likes variety, and is into sake, I think this would be a fun thing to add to the bar.