The Yamazaki might just be Japan’s most talked about distillery, or at least its most popular one. It’s Sherry Cask expression was named World Whisky of the Year 2013 by whisky writer Jim Murray. The Japanese whisky category seems to have exploded since then.
Part of this popularity means it’s getting harder and harder to certain Japanese whisky expressions on your store shelf. The Yamazaki 18-year-old expression has all but disappeared from shelves, but every now and then its younger sibling, the Yamazaki 12-year-old, can be found.
The Yamazaki 12-year is bottled at 43% abv, and available for $60+, if you can find a bottle.
The nose here has a rich character, full of honey, ripe plums, sweet malt, and ginger root. There is no astringent alcohol vapor here, which confirms just how well made this whisky is. Where Hakushu 12-year-old is very herbal and fresh, Yamazaki 12-year is a rich, velvety pour. That clove honey note from the nose is present on the palate, from start to finish. Some spice quickly hits the tongue on entry, complimenting the rich honey note. The spice dissipates and big fruit and citrus notes appear, with plums, baked pear, and orange peel being the more dominant notes. A very faint hint of smoke shows up on the back palate and fades away, leaving a long spiced honey finish.
Without question, The Yamazaki 12-year-old is a delicious whisky, especially for people who love big honey and fruit notes in their whisky. The way the layers of flavor develop should keep experienced drinkers excited, but it’s also an easy drinker for beginners.
Now, the hard part is easily finding a bottle.