Japanese whisky is slowly starting to appear in better bars and restaurants throughout the United States. While still in its early stages of introduction to most American whisky drinkers, Japanese whisky is generally held in high regard by experienced whisky connoisseurs. Some of the very best Japanese whiskies are made by Suntory. Suntory operates two distilleries, Hakushu (not available at this time in the United States) and Yamazaki, which has the distinction of being the oldest whisky distillery in Japan. The 12 year old offering from Yamazaki makes a perfect introduction into the world of Japanese whisky and its subtle, honeyed flavor is both sophisticated and satisfying.
Japanese whiskies are modeled on the Scottish whisky industry, with both single malts and blends being produced. One notable difference with Yamazaki 12 year old single malt is that the wash (or thin beer created prior to distillation) is fermented longer than usual in wooden washbacks which results in a creamy character which is noticeable on both the nose and on the palate. There is a bright tropical fruit note that is reminiscent of a sunny, summer day picnic, with pineapple, citron, honeysuckle and pine sap aromas appearing before dried fruit notes begin to appear.
Body and Palate
Yamazaki 12 year has rich, full bodied mouthfeel which is surprising for its age. This whisky is aged in a combination of American, Spanish and Japanese oak barrels, adding influences from all three types of barrels and it definitely shows upon the palate. Warm apricot jam, vanilla wafer and berry flavors dance over the palate while an undercurrent of spice runs just underneath the surface flavors providing complexity and depth. This is a wonderful whisky and the flavor profile on the palate leaves one excited for whats to come on the finish.
On the finish, Yamazaki 12 year offers a nice assortment of dried fruit and spice notes. Think dried apricots and peaches, orange marmalade, cedar, cinnamon, vanilla, allspice and a lovely hint of clove. As those initial flavors begin to recede from the finish, a light berry note makes a final appearance offering a pleasing mix of fresh raspberry, blueberry and red currant before slipping away.
Yamazaki 12 is an outstanding whisky in any category and makes a perfect introduction into the world of Japanese whisky. As a suggested retail price of $49.99 its a great value for a whisky of this depth and complexity. Start your journey through the world of Japanese whisky today by picking up a bottle of Yamazaki 12 year old single malt and you'll find some world class whiskies.