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If the rising sun on the packaging or the slightly industrial bottle (reminiscent of a school chemistry lab) has you expecting an inferior malt, think again. The complexity of the oriental dram rivals those of the Celtic nations, and the youngest expression of Suntory's Yamazaki single malt promises much for the distillery's full range.
It pours beautifully, with a rich gold hue that calls to mind a barley field bathed in the fullest smile of a warm sunset, and with a pleasing viscosity. The first scent that greets you is that of dry, smouldering straw, bolstered my a submerged tanginess that arrests the olfactory receptors. A little perseverance unlocks a greater depth, though the delicate suggestion of fire - gently burning, rather than especially smoky - is present throughout. There is a definite nutty quality that recalls toasted pine nuts. The nose matures into a waft of newly creosoted wood interwoven with a certain sweetness.
On the tongue it is surprisingly fiery at first, but quickly develops a soft and rich quality. If anything, the palate is a little disappointing after the complex aromas you've already encountered - but then, this is a whisky that seems to delight in subverting expectations. There is a blunt, biscuity bite as the palate unfurls into surprisingly salty finish with even a hint of an underdeveloped herbaceous quality. It certainly lingers on the tongue. Perhaps the final treat, though, is to nose the whisky once more: all of the above notes are more developed, before being enveloped in the delightful suggestion of a pan of warm caramel being gently heated over an open fire.
It's a glass that seems at once surprisingly mature and at the same time to promise so much more after a few more years in Japanese oak.