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.
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.
About Suntory's Whiskies
Some of the very best Japanese whiskies are made by Suntory which operates two distilleries and produces three labels.
The whiskey from the Hakushu distillery was only just recently released to the United States market and includes a fantastic range. The whiskies produced at Yamazaki are just as impressive and this location has the distinction of being the oldest whisky distillery in Japan. Hibiki is the third brand label produced by Suntory and this is a blend of whiskies from both of those distilleries.
The Review of Yamazaki 12 Year Old
Japanese whiskies are modeled on the Scottish whisky industry and 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. This 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.
The 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 what is 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 $50, it is 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.
About Yamazaki 12 Year Old Single Malt Japanese Whisky
- Single malt Japanese whisky aged for a minimum of 12 years.
- Produced by Suntory at the Yamazaki Distillery
- First released in 1984
- 43% alcohol/volume (86 proof)
- Retails for around $50/750ml bottle
Originally Published: March 13, 2011
Edited by Colleen Graham: October 16, 2015