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Suntory Hakushu 12 Year Old

Average score from 11 reviews and 35 ratings 83

Suntory Hakushu 12 Year Old

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Suntory Hakushu 12 Year Old

After @Mackstine review of Chita got the conversation going I thought it would be interesting to post my notes on this whisky here.

Suntory's Hakushu is the less hyped, less in demand younger brother to Yamazaki, it just doesn't seem to get the love and recognition of that whisky. The 12 year old is still relatively affordable in most markets. I think the boom causes some backlash towards Japanese whiskies because with these elevated prices/come elevated expectations that probably cannot be met.

Nose:  Pears and ripe peaches, fresh cut flowers, it's almost like good mead (I know some will say there's no such thing), pine needles, grassy and lightly vegetal, but fresh like walking in the forest in spring. The peat on the nose is present, light and very well integrated it's got this sweetness like marshmallows.

Palate: Porridge, malty, round and nectar, the bitterness kicks and then it's all grassy. The peat is present but it's like smoking conifers and juniper. The influence of the bourbon casks is present, oak and some vanilla, good honey and citronella.

Finish is medium length and drying, the sweetness and citrus is almost like old school barbershop aftershave and that discreet peat is lurking there. Sadly the texture is a bit thin and affects the length of the finish a bit.

Beyond the big flavors that hit first, there are lots of secondary notes and delicate touches. Some might find these too "crafted" or precise that is a complaint heard of Japanese whisky, it requires pause to appreciate these nuances and the work to achieve this result. I like this kind of profile, it's perhaps not completely unique but worth seeking out. It makes me curious to taste older variants but I am unlikely due to the price.

@fiddich1980, it's like you're drinking in a time capsule! Dare I tell you what's happened in the world since 2015? :)

@MadSingleMalt for me more like 2013. I still haven't gotten around to a Glenmorangie Quinta Ruban NAS which has since returned to a 12 year age started.

@RianC I would not lament for the "good" old days. Progression is just part of the human condition every generation has to define what they consider is good from crap. For myself, maybe hitting a bar and sampling what is popular, could be an eye opener. Whisky drinking/tasting is a journey requires a slower pace as opposed to the instant gratification of wine appreciation.


At first glance, this chap is approachable, unassuming and maybe even a little boring. But get to know him a little better and you will feel embarrassed for putting him into a box.

Ok, as fun as that was, I don't want to overdo the metaphor!

Bottled: 9/4/2013 Opened: February 2014

Nose: Pear, apple Palate: Pear, caramel, oak, raisin, smoke, medicinal Finish: Slight burn, pear, oak

Overall a very light, easy to drink whisky that suits a relaxed evening setting. However, if you pay it some respect there's plenty of complexity there and it's all relatively well balanced. You might say it has a certain understated elegance.

The only drawback I found was that the experience was on the short side - the flavor doesn't linger long in the mouth. But at the same time that's also what makes it the perfect choice for everyday occasions.


The Hakushu 12 is an interesting one. In some ways it’s a light, easy sipper for a casual evening in front of the TV. In other ways it’s a complex whisky that demands your full attention. Leave it to the Japanese to make sense of such contradiction.

Nose: Apples, pears, honey, grass, earth, ginseng, oak, cinnamon, anise, and some subtle sherry. This has a soft, understated complexity.

Palate: Creamy arrival. A nice, rich caramel/honey note chimes in first. Some chocolate, pear, smoke, and anise, followed by some beautiful woody spices.

Finish: Some really bright, sweet, grassy oakiness. This is gently herbal and floral. Pears, apples, café latte, chocolate, quiet peat, and a beautiful woodspice carry on throughout the medium finish.

Like many of the Japanese whiskies I’ve tried, this is balanced with a very controlled, graceful complexity. For me, there seems to be something quite unique about Japanese oak. It imparts some very earthy, grassy, herbal notes along with the expected oak and woodspices. Such is the case here. I find this whisky to be both easy and accessible, but also quite complex and elegant. It will please those who want to sip casually, and satisfy those who want to explore it analytically. Beautifully balanced stuff. Recommended.

@hunggar, I am with you completely that Hakushu 12 is "grassy". I would say that "Grassy" or even "Deep Grass" might be the way I may one day title a review of Hakushu 12, because it is for me the most distinctive characteristic of Hakushu 12 yo. Please do note that element, @cherylnifer, and make your decisions accordingly. @hunggar, do you really think that "grassy" can come from oak? I can't see that at all.

Hakushu 12 does have a lovely balance, and I have to say that it exceeded my expectations of it based on previous descriptions I had read.

Hibiki 12 is a mild-mannered, somewhat sweet, and easy-going blend. As a "blended whisky", it makes a "blended statement". It is very pleasant, and easily drinkable, but with a "blended" character lacking that "single" sort of personality characteristic of most malt whiskies. Hibiki 12 does not grab you by the throat and seize your attention...it hangs around with you more in the style of a mellow, undemanding, but enjoyable cocktail.

I agree with @hunggar that if you want to systematically start to explore the Japanese whiskies, try the malts first. That said, Hibiki 12 is a great whisky, and well worth the attention, when you get to it.

@OlJas, sometimes the peat in peated whiskies is very difficult to taste. I've had bottles of Old Pulteney 12 and even Highland Park 12 in which the peat was just about invisible. It's been awhile since I've had any Hakushu 12. My recollection of it was that any peat there was subtle and that peat was not a feature which really stood out with me. Despite that, there probably was some peat used, which just blended in under the radar. Certainly for a heavy-peat lover it would not be a whisky delivering much satisfaction on the "peat-meter".


Just this past weekend, I had the pleasure of trying this Hakushu 12. I must say, I am fond of everything Japanese, especially Japanese whiskies.

It is a delicate whisky. Starts sweet, Apples, pears, delicate sherry, slighty herbal, hay, semi floral, macadamia nuts, delicate peat and a slight grip tartness on the tongue, that kind of faded while it sat in the Glencairns for a few minutes. It finishes rather quickly and dry with subtle peat smoke lingering. Adding water, it softened greatly, becoming even more delicate and velvety.

This whisky is reminiscent to Old Pulteney 12, with a tad of smoke and not as briny. Very well balanced; a virtue that seems to predominate every facet of Japanese culture.


Following the Yamakazi, I had this, continuing my introduction to Japanese Whisky.

Nose: To me, another light nose. The front end of this is heavy on the smoke and peat, which quickly gives way to florals, sweetness, honey. Interesting... almost like two completely different drams between the front and the back of this nose.

Palate: Very interesting and divided. More smoke, more florals, notes of cherry, smoke again, and then finishes with a savory note. A lot of good flavors, but it just feels divided, like it couldn't make up it's mind for what it's supposed to be. Good flavors, but I'm not a fan of how divided it is. The smoke feels unnecessary, and a little half-hazard.

Finish: Sweet, very one dimensional and a tad short for my liking. It kind of just disappears and is a bit disappointing.

Not thrilled with this dram, but it will be interesting to see how these spirits progress with time. I'm glad I have it a try! Always good to try something new.


Hakushu distillery is located in the Southern Japanese Alps and is owned by Suntory, one of the big two Japanese single malt distillers. The distillery started operating in 1973 on the 50th anniversary of the start of construction of its sister distillery, Yamazaki. Nowadays all Hakushu single malt is produced in Hakushu Higashi, a second distillery that was built on the same site in 1981.

The nose is very grassy and fruity with apples, vanilla and some citrus notes. There is also a touch of smoke. All in all this is a very nice nose that makes me curious about what the palate will be like.

The palate is medium-bodied and creamy. I detected faint notes of caramel and honey. The smoke is now more distinct but still rather subtle. At the end a light pepperiness manifests itself.

The finish is medium long, with a lot of vanilla and drying notes of oak.

I am not going to beat about the bush here: the Hakushu 12yo is one of my favourite everyday single malts. Drink it in summer or in winter (I usually do not add water), this dram has always got something to give to you. The nose is a terrific start but I suppose that in the end it is the perfect balance that makes the difference for me.


So its uni holidays and I've ventured down to the good town of Melbourne for some solid R&R. After conquering an entire bottle of JD Tennessee Honey and a Japanese bar which's lavatory featured relieving one-self upon a picture of an animated beauty (anime lady O.o). On this fine night my good friend MarkMD (who as of yet does not have a connosr account) joins me in a review of a fine Japanese whisky he picked up from Japan on holiday after graduating from undergrad med-science.

Nose: malt sweetness, some honey, sea salt, kippers, some apples and citrus notes, peat not of the Islay kind but gentle like a campfire, some banana peel, some hints of vanilla from the oak.

Palate: peppery, citrus fruit (types apple mostly), some banana again, good sweet malted barley, nice seaside salt, gentel peat and smoke, some floral notes, hints of vanilla and oak.

Finish: finishes with some oak, citrus is still strong, gentle peat and smoke, slightly salty, nice malt and cerial grains.

Guest appearance - MarkMD

Nose: a bit of gentle peat, sweetness of from honey (I just drank a fair bit of JD honey) and bananas

Entry: soft entry, not too much alcohol burn to describe here. We get a glimpse of the peat and sweetness from the nose.

Palate: Chewing through the nip gives citrus sweetness and the peat starting to come through. Notes of pepper are very tangible here, there is also mention of a childhood trip to the seaside - saltiness.

Finish: Pepper and spice dominate the swallow. We get a taste of some citrus fruits and then we are left with a bit of smoke. The dram leads to serious salivation after swallowing. Very satisfying.


Hope you liked the review and guest review. If you get the chance to try some Japanese whisky you should give yourself the pleasure to do so. It is really good and well made, the only downside is that it can be insanely expensive.


So my wife and I had finally managed to arrive at Helvetica after months of trying. We'd had a Glenfarclas 12 yr old at dinner and we'd opened the night while waiting for my brother and sister in law with a Yamazaki 12 yr old which my wife had been waiting for months to try and had been sadly disappointed by.

My in laws hadn't arrived yet, but my wife and I were ready to try another whisky! Since the Yamazaiki had been a bit of a disappointment I decided to pick up a second japanese whisky for my wife to try.

The Hakushu 12 yr old.

This was a gamble as I literally knew NOTHING about the Hakushu. Never tasted it, never heard of it til I saw it on the menu. Let's give this a shot!

I went up to the bar and ordered the Hakushu 12 yr old and when I did the bartender looked at me and asks if I'd ever tried it before. When I told him no he informs me that I'm in for a treat and that it's unlike any other japanese whisky that I'll have tasted before.

I take the drink back to our table and offer it to my wife. She informs me that she smells peat or smoke along with some fruit. We pass the glass back and forth and come up with:

Nose: A hint of smoke and peat, but JUST a hint. Less then the Talisker 10 yr old. Apples and pears come through with a hint of vanilla. Pears are what's the standout for me.

I then offer my wife the first taste, just as a husband should do for his wife. The flavors were excellent and a world away from the Yamazaki!

The taste: A bit of the fruit, more pear then anything else fruit wise, a bit of alcohol bite, but rather delicate and then I'm beat on the head by a mouthful of pepper. Again I'm reminded of the Talisker 10 yr old. But a fruity version of it! Beautiful!!!

My wife states that she's really enjoying this whisky and that she's curious as to what kind of whisky is this. When I inform her it's a japanese whisky she is quite surprised and informs me that she likes it much better then the Yamazaki.

The finish is very very nice. There's the pear with a bit of peat and the smoke on the tongue and the pepper performing the encore. This is awesome and makes me long for another glass.

First time trying the Hakushu 12 yr old made me fall in love with this whisky.

This is a very good whisky and runs for roughly $150 AUS over here. I'd definitely buy a bottle of this over the Yamazaki 12 yr old.

My in laws still haven't arrived at the bar yet, next on the chopping block is the Glenmorangie Nectar D'or!

Thanks my friend! I hope you enjoy it as much as we did. My brother in law wound up getting a dram of it off my recommendation and as you'll see when I post the final review for that night, it was one of the best whiskies of the night, among a few others.

Love the review! Makes me keen to try my Hakushu 12 sample very soon! I already suspect it's the bottle I need in my upcoming "world malts" tasting that will make for a well-rounded tasting flight.


A friend picked this bottle up for me on a trip to Japan, so I can't read the descriptions on the box and label. However, it has just recently become available in the U.S. so at least there will be more access in the future. The Hakushu distillery started in the 1970s as Suntory's 2nd distillery after Yamazaki. It is known as the "green and fresh" distillery.

The color is a goldish yellow, but it looks oilier than it is.

Nose: Distinct bourbon barrel presence. Very sweet with feint whiffs of honey, coconut, and vanilla. Lemongrass and meadow flowers. Citruses with just a touch of peat.

Taste: The alcohol and lemon citrus are more forward on the palate then the nose (but that's relative). Its light and delicate, more floral than anything. Some dry, crisp fruit.

Finish: Soft peat. Bit of citrus tingle like lemon or grapefruit. Again very light.

If I have to give a very simple comparison of Hakushu 12 year and Scotch whisky I would say a mix of Glenlivet 12 and Springbank. I personally think it's a decent malt but when sharing it with a group of friends at a tasting it didn't hold up well to other Japanese whiskies or Scotches.


Nose, Taste, Finish and Balance are graded out of 2.5 each:

Nose: A composed multi-layered wave of sweet hay and rich malt, followed by apple and burnt sugar. At 12 years old, it still smells fresh and springlike, unsurprisingly therefore it reminds me a little of the Springbank 10 year-old. This has a slightly sweeter aroma to it though, and with all the elements so perfectly balanced on the nose, it is a most elegant and inviting Japanese welcome. 2.0

Taste: The smooth caress of rich malt, followed by a softened wave of grounded black pepper. It is a seemingly visceral combination but one that is delivered with effortless grace and composure. The sweetness of the barley seems to wrap itself around the tongue, and in doing so cushions the arrival of the spice, so that it nestles softly and luxuriously on the palate. Very skilful stuff indeed. 2.0

Finish: Soft apple-flavoured incense smoke on the finish, as the mouth is coated in a light layer of honey-flavoured wax, that's seems to cling for just the right length of time, before offering the spicy peppercorns the final say. 2.0

Balance: A fantastically well choreographed dance, with the malt, pepper, honey and apples offering elegant waves of weaving motion and a lightness of foot that is quite sublime. If Suntory's more famous 12-year-old single malt offering, the Yamakazi, could be deemed the crowd-pleasing hit show in town, the Yakushu is certainly the more sophisticated and complex performance, and for my money a more rewarding night out. 2.5


Color: light golden. It comes in those Green bottles that do not let the color mislead you as to the quality and maturity of the spirit (same as Laphraoig). I wonder if this is for the same reasons.

Nose: The Nose is rather delicate and does not give any hints as what’s to happen next on the palate. I am getting some leafy notes (wet leaves in the winter, in an orchard) , Grass after being mowed , some flower petals , apple and maybe some hints of semi-sweet pears.

Palate : Palate starts like the nose , sweet fruity grassy , some cereal notes, then all of a sudden you get the Pepper attack! Peppers and some Tabasco! You definitely do not expect that peppery feeling based on the nose. It’s so different and very surprising. Rather nice!

Finish : the pepper is here to stay with some whiffs of light smoke, and hints of peat (this is what I call feather-light peat) so light it’s barely noticeably, but it’s there. The finish is quite long and the peppery feeling does linger for quite some time. Very enjoyable.

Summing it up:

This is an enjoyable dram, light on the nose, but very peppery on the palate. I can see myself sipping this on warmer evenings (translate : every evening in Israel from May-January) when I am looking for a delicate pre-dinner dram. Sitting on the veranda and enjoying a bit of breeze with this one can be a delight. As for pricing , around 46 GBP it’s not a cheap one, but a very interesting option to think about when building your Japanese/world whiskies shelf. A solid dram, no doubt.

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