Featured at World Whisky Day 2014: Yamazaki is Japan’s first and oldest distillery and has been producing whiskey for nearly a century. Situated just outside Kyoto and owned by Suntory, Yamazaki was inspired by Scotch but only goes so far with that inspiration before setting out on its own distinctive path. The whiskey is very much a product of its locality, infused with unique character. They don’t mess around, in other words. This particular offering has been the recipient of many international whiskey tasting awards. It was highly praised at our tasting.
Yamazaki also wins for taking the best shot across the bow of Scotch that we’ve seen (found here): In contrast to the Scottish blenders, who emphasize nosing, Suntory blenders also value the importance of tasting the actual whiskies. Ouch!
Age: 12 year
Nose: Jasmine, oolong tea, sweet, peach, cherry, spice, tea, persimmon, incense
Palate: Fruit, Asian pear, oak, maraschino cherry
Finish: Cinnamon, mineral
Comments: Water is not needed, but does take any edge off and open up a different flavor profile.
Adam – This was a favorite at World Whisky Day, and for good reason. This whiskey as a lot of restrained flavor. Insert the inappropriate analogy of your choice here, but this drink smells delicious and has a great body. The finish dissipates very quickly and does not leave you with that deep-chested warmth like an Islay, but there remains a dry taste that nevertheless lingers pleasantly. It does not need watering at all, but is fun to do so for the heightened flavor. I’m already drooling a bit over the other Yamazaki offerings.
Kate – This is exactly what I would think a whiskey from Japan should taste like. One of the things I like about whiskey is that they frequently take on the flavours of their environment be that what is found in nature or the culture surrounding the area. This one succeeds in that aspect. Don’t expect it to taste like anything you’ve tried before because it won’t. The nose is very aromatic: incense, jasmine, phenols, tea, persimmon, brine, brown sugar, maple syrup. What a complex nose! The taste is spicy with notes of apple and oak, it’s sweet like a maraschino cherry. Water brings oak out in the taste. This has a medium finish and water deflates the finish so it’s short. Overall, a foreign whiskey at its best (pun intended).
Meghan – I feel this whiskey does a bit of a bait and switch since although it is sweet, it is not as sweet tasting as it smells. But, if it was, then you’d be drinking something other than whiskey. The nose is almost syrupy in its sweetness, like the dipping sauce for spring rolls. But the palate is much more balanced than the nose which is a good thing. The dryness in the finish makes me want a glass of water but hydration is never a bad thing.
Henry – Yum. This is pure guilty pleasure. Pleasure because of the big toffee and caramel nose and sweetness on the palate, leading to a respectful yet not overpowering finish. Guilty because it seems to be tailored to the tastes of bourbon and sweet Irish whiskey consumers – it’s simply too sweet and simple to compare to a mature, smoky, layered Scotch masterpiece from the western islands. And so, I tell myself, don’t compare it to anything, shut up already, and pour yourself another big glass of the stuff. Banzai!