Japanese Whisky Review

Toki Japanese Whisky Review

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know Japanese whisky is experiencing a major boom globally.  Age stated Japanese whiskies are becoming increasingly more difficult to find on store shelves.  In fact, the only age stated Japanese whisky I see on shelves regularly is Hakushu 12 year.  Yamazaki 12 year is becoming almost as rare to find as its older 18-year-old sibling.  For distilleries, older whisky stocks aren’t as plentiful as they once were.  As a response to that and Japanese whisky’s popularity, companies are releasing non age statement whiskies.  Suntory’s latest is Toki.

Toki is a blend of malt whiskies from the Yamazaki and Hakushu distilleries and grain whiskies from the Chita distillery.  The primary whiskies here are American oak cask matured whisky from Hakushu and “heavy-type” grain whisky from Chita.  Any malt whiskies used from Yamazaki represent a small percentage of the total blend.

Price wise, Toki is the cheapest whisky from Suntory available in the U.S.  It’s currently available for about $40.  Like many other whiskies from the brand, Toki is bottled at 43% abv.

The nose is fairly light and fruity, with honey, lightly-spiced apple, vanilla and herbal notes.  On entry, the whisky carries a toffee sweetness alongside hints of vanilla, ripe Granny Smith apples, and those green herbal notes found in Hakushu malts.  The mid-palate features nectarines and lightly-brewed green tea.  Some oak tannins begin to appear going into the long, sweet and spicy finish, which features black peppercorns and honeyed pears.

With Hibiki Harmony and now Toki, Suntory has shown that it can release quality non-age stated whiskies.  While not as complex as Hibiki Harmony, Toki still offers a very enjoyable, if delicate, tasting experience.  I prefer Toki neat, but I also like this one in a whisky highball (one part Toki to three parts sparkling water, served over ice with a lemon twist).  Recommended!  8/10

Thanks to Beam Suntory for the sample!  As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

Yamazaki 12-Year-Old Single Malt Japanese Whisky Review

Photo courtesy of Beam Suntory.

Photo courtesy of Beam Suntory.

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.

(Note: A review sample was provided by Beam Suntory.)

Hakushu 12-Year-Old Japanese Single Malt Whisky Review

Photo courtesy of Beam Suntory

Photo courtesy of Beam Suntory

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.

(Note: A review sample was provided by Beam Suntory.)