Courvoisier Mizunara: legendary cognac goes Japanese

By Gabriel Power | 15 Jul 2022 | Indulge

After much negotiating, the French brandy makers got their hands on one solitary barrel made from ultra-rare Japanese Mizunara oak — and what they've done with it will blow your mind

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World-famous premium cognac producer Courvoisier has announced the launch of a remarkable new expression, Mizunara, crafted using a unique blend of French and Japanese traditions and limited to just 500 bottles.

The liquid is the brainchild of two masters of spirit-making, Courvoisier’s sixth chief blender Patrice Pinet, and Shinji Fukuyo, fifth-generation chief blender of the House of Suntory, Japan's most iconic whisky brand. Pinet, impressed by the complexity many Japanese whiskies are gifted by their ageing in rare Mizunara oak casks, asked Suntory if they could lend Courvoisier a barrel or two of this curiously difficult-to-harness wood for a unique experiment. Suntory, aware of the scarcity of this sought-after wood, rare even in Japan let alone the rest of the world, sent the French cognac makers just one barrel. And they made full use of it.

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Built upon a framework of Grand Champagne eau-de-vie first aged in French oak barrels, the young spirit is then moved into House of Suntory’s Mizunara cask, made from the oak wood of the same name. This species is notoriously hard to work with; it is prone to leaks, has an exceptionally tight grain and, most notably, requires an enormous amount of patience before it transfers its characteristics to the liquid housed within.

In fact, Courvoisier were initially led to believe that their Minazura experiment had been a failure, having been left disappointed after taste-testing the spirit 14 full months after it was placed in the Japanese wood. But once told by the Suntory team that at least three years were needed in the barrel, the Courvoisier team sealed back up the cask and waited.

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And what's left is one of the most unique cognacs to hit the market in decades. Resting on a backdrop of the classic Courvoisier XO flavour profile, the Mizunara is, uniquely, brimming with characteristics one might expect from a Yamazaki or Hashuku single malt whisky. Pinet himself describes the final result as an "exceptionally harmonious and aromatic cognac", replete with sandalwood, oak and spice on the nose, with a deeply fruity, floral flavour profile on the palate.

“Memorable blends begin in the imaginations of those who dare to dream them," he adds. "I have always been intrigued by the scarcity and uniqueness of Japanese Mizunara oak and honored by the opportunity to work with the legendary wood and the incredibly talented Shinji Fukuyo of House of Suntory.

"We are living in two different countries with two different cultures, but deeply connected in our values and respect for our artistry. I knew the Mizunara cask was an unconventional choice for Courvoisier and together with Shinji, we saw the potential for the notoriously temperamental wood to enhance the unique characteristics of the exceptional cognac and complement the Maison’s signature floral House style."

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Fukuyo, meanwhile, said: "It has been an exciting journey working alongside Patrice to discover a new, unique taste profile of Courvoisier using Japanese Mizunara oak.

"I have always been fascinated by experimenting with flavors through innovation, and I’m very excited to have taken part in the development of Courvoisier Mizunara and to help create something never before tasted.”

An extremely limited release, just 500 bottles of Courvoisier Mizunara have been made available in select countries, with just 35 arriving on British shores at an RRP of around £2,000.