The Yamazaki 12

$$$ — 43% ABV — 12 years

A prime example, and one of the few easily found, examples of Japanese distillers' craftsmanship is the Yamazki 12 year expression from Suntory. It has much in common with scotches, but plenty remains different to set it apart. From the nose's emphasis on floral and nutty flavors to the mildly maritime finish, it's a strange pairing that has made many groups of whisky enthusiasts, often found in grave opposition with each other, nodding their heads in a communal if quiet approval.

Yamazaki makes whisky from two malted barleys — one peated, one unpeated — which makes the darker peaty flavors mostly hidden. Since they're all distilled under one roof, this technique doesn't discount them as a single malt. Comments about Irish techniques not being as kindly-received left aside, it does go to show while Japanese distilleries are influenced by Scotland, their practices are not at all identical.

Even more radical is Yamazaki's decision to use wood from Hokkaido, Japan's northernmost major island. Asian oak, most often called Mizunara or Mongolian oak, has a lot of properties similar to American oaks but with a heightened flavor of coconuts. Not all of Yamazaki is matured in Mizunara but no doubt that's the source of the many strange and delightful flavors found in Yamazaki whisky. The 12 remains quite youthful but is a wonderful gateway to Japanese whiskies.

Yamazaki is located in Shimamoto, Kansai in central Japan. Their barley is lightly peated. Established in 1923 by Shinjiro Torii and Suntory, it is the head of a conglomerate.

Flavor Notes

Honeysuckle / Pecan / Lemon / Peppercorn / Coconut / Seaweed

Honeysuckle / Pecan / Lemon / Peppercorn / Coconut / Seaweed