Yamazaki 12 Year: 43% abv
Background: See Yamazaki, the flagship product of Japanese powerhouse distiller, Suntory. Suntory happens to be the Japanese company that owns just about everything, including your dog. Suntory also happens to produce Hakushu and Hibiki, but we’re not talking about that today. Today, we talk about the 12 Year Japanese Single Malt from Yamazaki. What makes Japanese Single Malt different from Scottish Single Malt? Where it comes from, effectively. Does that influence taste? Absolutely, it does. Welcome, then, to the pinnacle of fashionable contemporary whiskies that probably could run a Toyota Prius. You notice how I’m not writing about the barrel it was aged in, or the colorant, or any of that jazz? That’s because Suntory didn’t tell me any of that. So I had to talk about Toyotas…
Nose: So what does Japanese whisky smell like? Well, as a Single Malt, it certainly contains a strong presence of malt, candy sweetness, and dominant vanilla as well. The fruitiness is prevalent in the nose, with honeydew melon, cherry, orange, and banana. There is also subtle pear and green apple notes contributing to nose, with hints of tartness and mild sweetness, mixed with drier flavors as well. There is a bit of oak, and even a suggestion of coconut on the nose as well. Dig a little deeper into the whisky, and you’ll find a little bit of saltiness present as well, although slight and very recessive. This nose also has a tinge of earthiness to it, not terribly noticeable, and frankly hard to describe, but at a minimum present.
Arrival: The arrival starts off with a good amount of spiciness, maltiness, and saltiness. There is a mild sweetness in the arrival, with some allspice. There is some oakiness to the whisky in the arrival. There is some sugar water sweetness as well.
Body: The body contains a significant amount of oakiness, fruitiness, and maltiness. There is a bit of banana, oak, and earthiness. There is mild amounts of orange and sugar sweetness in the body as well.
Finish: The maltiness kind of dominates the whisky in the finish. There is some saltiness, smokiness, and earthiness in the finish, which is fairly definitive. There is some black pepper to be found in the finish, with slight notes of tea leaves and tobacco.
Nose: There is slightly more vanilla on the nose. The citrus is much more noticeable on the nose as well. There is some notes of cinnamon and apples. There is a suggestion of molasses on the nose as well.
Arrival: The arrival, after adding water, tends to show off a little bit of sugar, malt and fruit sweetness. In general, the heat in the whisky is not as dominant in the arrival, and a little bit more of the character is available to evaluate.
Body: There is a little bit of earthiness in the body, with oak, spicy heat, and the malt tends to be still very noticeable in the whisky.
Finish: In a weird fashion, there is more heat in the finish now than there was prior to the whisky without water. There isn’t as much flavor in the finish as there was before, but cinnamon heat and a little bit of alcohol burn are still present. There is still a light tobacco that shows up in the finish.
Final Comments: Well if you like Toyotas, you may also find this to be an appealing whisky. Despite this being the first serious contender in world markets for Japanese Single Malts, it doesn’t seem to be representing its comrades very well. It is not a BAD whisky from the strictest definition. It is, however, hugely underwhelming. You might hold credence in that all the rave about World Whiskies is for a reason, but KCM isn’t here to tell you about widely accepted opinions. We’re here to show you that in general, this whisky lacks in complexity, balance and quality, and doesn’t save itself with stark uniqueness either. This doesn’t mean good Japanese whiskies don’t exist. It means that if you’re planning on spending $65 on Single Malt, spend your money elsewhere.
Why you’d buy it: For better fuel economy.
Why you wouldn’t: You feel that value per dollar is an important metric, and you’re willing to wait for Japan to send over its serious contenders before you jump on the bandwagon.