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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. In 2012 Suntory launched its first ever Hakushu Sherry Cask expression, which is Hakushu new make matured entirely in selected sherry casks. The 2013 edition was released on 5 February 2013 with a limited outturn of 3,000 bottles.
The nose is voluminous, sweet and fruity. Rich flavours of raisins, oranges, and overripe prunes appear at the beginning, followed by sweeter elements such as marzipan and liquorice. With water the nose gets even sweeter, and now milk chocolate, more marzipan and light sherry come to the fore. Altogether a lovely, lovely nose!
The palate is astonishingly light (despite the ABV of 48%) and a tad peppery. Prunes and raisins are back, together with touches of leather and tobacco, followed by some oaky astringency. Water is not of any help here – this is better enjoyed straight.
The finish is of medium length, peppery and very dry. Tobacco and leather make a reappearance, accompanied by liquorice, red wine, and some distinct oaky flavours.
Without doubt the nose of this single malt is spectacular! It is rich, complex, and super luscious. Wow! In comparison both palate and finish lack complexity, and the finish was getting a bit too dry for my taste. Still, this is a great whisky, and it was the perfect dram for me on Christmas Day 2013!