One of the first Japanese single malts to break into the UK market, Suntory’s Yamazaki 12 Year Old continues to impress with its well-balanced fruity sweetness, something that appeals to novice and experienced whisky drinkers alike.
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Details: 19.5 ABV
After 12 years in the cask, the whisky gains a lot of its character, becoming more crisp and ripe, with a strawberry like aroma that is hard to fault and reminiscent of some mature scotches made in Islay.
Before we begin, while whisky reviews are commonly written from the perspective of the writer, or perhaps a singular whisky that has won them over, here I will be reviewing the whisky in a separate class from the reviewing a reviewer. This review is personal and is perhaps even more authoritative than my personal favourite “Scotch of the Month” as it is an observation from a commentator of Japanese whisky made by the world’s largest distiler of that whisky.
The basic story these fascinating malts have to tell, is that they are made from water, malt, barley and other sometimes mystical solvents distilled into wonderful whisky.
Generally, when you consider the pre-made liquors found on supermarket shelves, the definition of whisky is defeated by the mainstream industry of beer, liqueur, rum, vodka and gin. However, single malt whisky is a fascinating class of alcoholic beverages that epitomize single malt characteristics.
First of all, you should know that in order to legally call the liquid in question whisky, that liquid must be matured in a cask for at least 3 years. In order for whisky to mature normally, it must be aged in a temperature controlled environment for the first 2 years. As it ages, it develop a thick and ever changing layer of chemicals called reactants. In whisky, these chemical reactions convert the liquid into flavour elements.
The origin of Japanese whisky as it comes to us today, shepherds of the ancient Japanese feudal era, began the practice of whiskies around the 1800s. In Japan, the distillation process of the desired whisky uses a large chamber with multiple stages that use heat and steam to distill the malted barley mash. In the Western style, one uses a still made out of copper to distill most of the liquid out of the mash. The whisky from the Japanese distillation methods utilize a single mash mixed with raw malted barley. Once the bourbon mash is mixed with malted barley, it is placed in a large cask, cooled to between 50 to 60 degrees centigrade, and sat there for 3 years. At the end of 3 years, the whisky is transferred into oak barrels and undergoes a further aging process.
In the glass the whisky has an aroma of vanilla, dark dried fruits and red berries. The appearance displays a pale yellow colour, with a light amber hue. It has a very light head, but shows off the whisky from its depth of flavour. The nose is creamy and rich, with a malted taste and a lingering after taste reminiscent of cremebrulee.
On the palate the whisky begins with sharp notes of campfire smoke and a bitter finish. The body and texture is smooth and creamy. The straight after taste is salty and watery, the best of both worlds in a whisky sip.
It is hard to fault the whisky, which makes up for its short age by a huge variance in taste and one of the worlds largest distilleries. Drinks with this whisky will provide a fun night on the town, and proves that even though Japan may not be the whiskey capital of the world, she is in the top 5. The Suntory Yamazaki single malt whisky is a delicious drink that scores well amongst the Japanese malt whisky market for single malt. This is an explosive whisky.
It finishes with a sweet and refreshing drink and a dry, slightly bitter aftertaste. It is at its best neat, but you can pair it with a little ice or water to cut the astringency and give you a smoother finish. This is a fantastic whisky that deserves a regular occurrence in your whisky collection. Any whisky lover would be foolish to not have this in their bar. Overall, this is a premium whisky that is worth more than its price tag.