Our First Review of a Japanese Whisky
So far we have focused our reviews on whiskies originating from Scotland and the United States, but, as you are probably aware, whiskey production takes place around the globe. Several countries have been producing different varieties of whiskey for centuries, particularly in locations which had contact with the British Empire. For example, Japan has had a lineage of producing single malt style whisky since the late nineteenth century. We wanted to try to expand our focus to highlight different approaches to whiskey production and thought a Japanese whiskey would be a great way to showcase this.
If you have ever explored sake, you can understand the attention to detail and level of craftsmanship that go into the production of whisky from Japanese distilleries. Over the past decade, this whisky category has become highly sought after with certain distilleries and expressions becoming very hard to find. As such, we wanted to review a whisky that is more widely available. Fortunately, Suntory produces a few expressions that are easy to find.
Suntory is one side of the massive Beam Suntory conglomerate that encompasses dozens of brands. The company is responsible for several of the more iconic Japanese whisky brands, including Yamazaki, the first commercial whisky distillery in Japan. In addition to single malts, Suntory produces a number of blends. Since we have reviewed only a couple of blended whiskies, we wanted to reinforce the idea that blends are not automatically less interesting than single malts. In fact, the flagship single malts from almost every distillery we have covered are effectively blends of different in house stocks. When the ingredients are of good quality, blended whiskies can be incredibly complex and flavorful.
Suntory Toki Blended Whisky
Toki is a blend of several of the whiskies in the Suntory portfolio. The blend is comprised of whisky from Yamazaki, Hakushu, and Chita distilleries. Thus the blend includes a bit of grain whisky (from Chita), which is typical as grain whisky is can add smoothness and flavor while lowering the cost of production. The single malt components of Toki are aged in a full variety of European and and American oak casks.
On the Eyes: Toki is the color of pale straw, and has a light, delicate texture in the glass.
On the Nose: The nose is very clean and bright, and no aroma dominates. In the mix are scents of flowers, grape jam, sweet corn and fresh spring air.
To the Taste: The palate is a mix of soft sugar sweetness with flavors of fresh Belgian endive with a dash of salt and olive oil.
And the Finish: As the sweet and bitter mix fades the finish is dry with a dash of pepper and subtle hints of charred wood and smoke.
Suntory Toki is everything you would expect in a good blend—balanced, delicate in texture and approachable with no dominant characteristics. Japanese whisky DNA is also present in the slightly floral nose and exceptionally smooth palate. Like finely polished sake rice, there are no rough edges to Toki. Even the finish offers a smooth transition to more smoky, oak forward flavors. This whisky is a fine introduction the style of Japanese distillers, and because we know some of the components we’re definitely interested to seek out some of the single malt expressions in the Suntory galaxy.