Friday, April 15, 2011

Suntory Yamazaki


Yamazaki – 12 year old

When I try a whisky for the first time, I usually have a pretty good idea what it’s going to taste like – generally. I may be familiar with the distillery or the region. I may have read about it. You can also pick up some clues from the label.

When I poured my first class of Yamazaki, I had no idea what to expect . . .

Since the United States Navy steamed towards Japan in 1853, the country had been opening up to Western trade and Western tastes. Soon, Kirin beer popped up. The Japanese became fascinated with rugby and Sherlock Holmes. But attempts at making whiskey frustrated the country. Until the 1920’s, when Masataka Taketsuru attended the University of Glasgow and later worked for several Speyside and Campbeltown distilleries. He returned home to help Suntory establish its first distillery and later his own, Nikka at Yoichi.

For about 60-70 years, these distilleries, and several others, stuck to blends, even including some scotch in their expressions. About 20 years ago, Suntory finally decided to distribute some of its own single malt, from it's Yamazaki distillery. In 2001, Taketsuru’s Yoichi, won the coveted “Best of the Best” award from Whiskey Magazine. Japanese whiskey had arrived.

Back to the Yamazaki. The color was not surprising to me, pure gold. The nose was honey and vanilla. But the taste, was a very pleasant surprise. It was a very smooth taste, like sweet butter. But it’s not at all thin, like a weaker whiskey. Yamazaki has a nice long finish. It’s a lot more complete whiskey than I ever imagined.

I see this one as a summer whiskey, something for the deck after the cookout. Do a little investigating, try some pairings, and let me know what you think.


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