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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. This particular expression was distilled in 1996, matured in hogsheads, and bottled in 2008 as bottle no. 448 of 1,000.
The nose is rich and very malty to begin with. Flavours of lemon cake, cheesecake and fudge are at the forefront. With water the flavours become less pronounced and turn quite floral. Lemon zest is now prominent, followed by touches of marzipan and grapefruit.
The palate is medium-bodied and quite spicy. The maltiness is back, together with very sugary notes. With water vanilla flavours emerge, followed by touches of lemon and fudge. Indeed lemon seems to be the dominant flavour here.
The finish is of medium length, spicy and rather dry.
This was an unusual Hakushu in the sense that it was a far cry from the well rounded and tamed standard expressions (that I quite like). This was a wild version that yielded its secrets only with the addition of water. Fine with me!