Yamazaki 12 Year Old
We had a lot of content centered around the holidays during our last handful of reviews. From whiskies with flavors of the season to a full advent calendar, we sampled many new drams. We also were lucky to receive a couple of bottles as gifts from friends & family, one of which was a whisky we’ve been waiting to try for a while. Last year we reviewed the Toki blend from Suntory, but we have yet to feature a Japanese Single Malt. Yamazaki is also under the Suntory banner, and can sometimes be hard to find. Located outside of Kyoto, Yamazaki is one of the oldest distilleries in Japan. The company produces a range of different aged expressions along with a few limited edition bottlings.
Recently, many varieties of Japanese whiskies have become increasingly scarce. There are many causes for this phenomenon, including increased demand from southeast Asia, better global knowledge of Japanese distilleries, and the extended reach of Beam-Suntory and other spirits mega companies. Prized for their delicate and distinct flavor profiles, the stocks of older expressions have been depleted. In order to meet demand, more and more Japanese distilleries are offering blends and non-age statement single malts.
Yamazaki, along with Suntory in general, takes pride in the attention to detail put into the company’s whiskies. The water used is sourced from mountainous rivers that have been highly prized for centuries for their mineral content, and the company indicates that they rigorously test the water to ensure the chemical composition has remained stable. Rare for a large scale producer, Yamazaki utilizes multiple types of fermentation tanks and stills to produce different effects in the ultimate product. Overall, our research gave us the sense that the company is focused on achieving balance and flavor through a careful mix of single malt production tools.
Yamazaki 12 Year Old
The 12 Year Old is the flagship of the Yamazaki line. As such, the whisky is a balanced expression of the distillery’s house style. To achieve this, Yamazaki blends a mix of their single malt aged in a variety of cask types, including ex-bourbon, sherry, and a small portion of Japanese Mizunara Oak barrels. The mizunara oak barrels really distinguish Japanese single malt from Scottish varieties, and Yamazaki is one of a few distilleries to have a cooperage in-house. We can be fairly confident in saying that the 12 Year Old features whisky aged in casks produced in-house.
Now onto the whisky!
Eyes: The color is pure amber, like a stone straight out of Jurassic Park. Very rich, syrupy texture in the glass with very long legs.
Nose: The initial aromas were of poached pears and honey. After a bit of time we picked up warm apple turnover. In general think freshly baked hearty desserts.
Taste: The flavor of the 12 Year Old complemented the nose—red apples cooked and coated in honey, followed by bit of oak tannin in the mid palate. The oak effect was soft though, not distracting. Overall, the dram has a very velvety texture.
Finish: Soft, floral & sweet, the Yamazaki is smooth to the end. The flavor a the end remained rich and sweet, with the taste of fresh pancakes and syrup.
We found the Yamazaki 12 Year Old to be a extremely balanced, rich dram with enough complexity to generate a full orchestra of flavor notes. Even though the bulk of our flavor and aroma descriptions are mostly sweet, the flavors were all subtle enough that others might pick up more dry notes. Very much like a good sake, The Yamazaki 12 year old has a lot of nuances that make it versatile and delicious.