The Hakushu Distillery, owned by Beam Suntory, sits at the foot of the Japanese Southern Alps, surrounded by forests. I’ve never had the pleasure of visiting, but a quick internet search shows some breathtaking images. The distillery was the company’s second, built in 1973. It produces a different style than the company’s other major distillery – The Yamazaki. Hakushu delivers a fresher and more herbal style.
The core lineup consists of a no-age statement Distiller’s Reserve as well as 12-year, 18-year, and 25-year-old expressions. The 12-year-old expression is bottled at 43% and retails for about $70.
Japanese whisky is as popular as ever, seeing record sales. However, Hakushu 12-year doesn’t seem to be as popular as Yamazaki 12-year or Hibiki as I still see it on shelves.
Hakushu’s website describes this 12-year-old expression as “green with herbal notes.” That’s an accurate summary. A short menthol blast on the nose starts things off, soon developing into waves of freshly mowed grass, lime zest, tangy Granny Smith apples and malt. There isn’t an overt toffee note, but it’s in there. In terms of taste, Hakushu 12-year-old comes across as what I’d best describe as candied herbs. It’s nice and different. Some tropical fruit, basil and lime juice are the main players here. Sweet malt and green apple show up in the mid-palate alongside a bit of smokiness. The long finish is full of sweet, sour and malty notes, leaving behind a lone pine note after some time.
Well that was different. Different, but delicious. I can say I’ve never tasted a whisky quite like this. It’s zesty notes keep things fresh, while the herbal note and smoke add some unique character. It’s an excellent year round whisky. Hakushu 12 is a great choice, and comes with my recommendation. Just know it’s not your ordinary whisky.