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Suntory Yamazaki 12 Year Old

Hatsukoi ("first love")

0 1688

@NilsGReview by @NilsG

12th Dec 2012

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  • Overall
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Background: The distillery in Yamazaki was the first in Japan. Established by the founder of Suntory, Shinjiro Torii. Because of this, Suntory will claim Torii to be "the father of Japanese whisky", saying nothing about Masataka Taketsuru. Taketsuru had spent years in Scotland studying the art of making whisky, and it was with his knowledge that the Yamazaki distillery was built. However, there was conflict between the two men regarding how the whisky should be made, and Taketsuru left the company (then made a distillery of his own in Yoichi and founded Nikka. But that's a different story). To simplify, Torii wanted to make a whisky that would suit the Japanese palate, but Taketsuru wanted to introduce Japanese made scottish style whisky. Who the real father of Japanese whisky is can be argued, and I will argue that it is Taketsuru. But I'll do that in the future when I review Yoichi. Regardless, both these dudes are whisky legends and pioneers.

It was however Shinjiro Torii's son, Keizo, that would take the Yamazaki distillery to the next level, and made the first Japanese single malt. It was released in the 80s. Japan was in its famous economical bubble and more expensive alcohol could finally enjoy a significant market.

The Yamazaki 12 is witout a doubt THE most important whisky to me. It was the first whisky I enjoyed straight. It was the whisky that opened my eyes, and it permanently changed the way perceive and think about taste and smell. It was my "first love" and it is possible that I would never have discovered whisky without it. For that reason I can probably not make an impartial review. But I have purposely waited with this review until the "honeymoon" was over, to give it a more honest opinion.

Here we go...

(No water added) Nose: Orange, melted butter, soap (maybe "floral" would be a more appealing term to use, but the image that pops up in my head is a bar of soap, not a flower). And, nosing a bit away from the glass, you can get heavy banana (thanks Victor for that one).

Taste: Ok, I can basically only repeat what everyone else already stated; it starts very sweet, then soon the sweetness is taken over by wood, vanilla and dryness, very dr¥. I would not say this is a balanced whisky, the wood is dominating, and I like it.

Finish: I really really enjoy this finish, but I can't stay focused through it. I normally prefer a finish that have its different parts coming in waves more like one at a time. But in this finish there is so much going on at the same time I find it hard to target the individual components. Maybe I should have waited to write this review after I gained more experience after all. I find the dryness disappears after a while, and although there is some bitterness in the early finish it's all gone towards the end, and it's a long end. However the bitterness goes so well with the wood taste I actually wouldn't have minded if it stuck around for longer.

Summary: This is a very good whisky. It's not mind blowing (although it sure was the first time I drank it). I don't put this whisky on a pedestal anymore. But it I recommend it strongly to anyone. Especially if you want to start exploring Japanese whiskies, this is the bottle to start with.

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Related Suntory Yamazaki reviews

16 comments

@MCM
MCM commented

Agreed. The Yamazaki 12 was also first single malt I was able to appreciate neat. Cutting my teeth on Kentucky bourbon, I somehow bypassed Scotland and went straight to Japan.

7 years ago 0

@NilsG
NilsG commented

Yeah I think Japan is a good place to start with single malts. The main standard expressions, especially by Suntory, are designed to be easy to like. As opposed to many Scottish ones that are the way they are by tradition and/or maybe need to specialize more to distinguish themselves, find their niche so to speak.

7 years ago 0

@PeatyZealot
PeatyZealot commented

I was so happily surprised by this one:) I couldn't imagine it being in the same class as the Scots, but boy was I wrong... I also had some 'trouble' with the finish at first, just because it was so different from any other Scotch I tasted. But the more I tried it, the more I started to appreciate it, guess my palate wasnt ready yet haha. Great stuff and now I want to try the 18 really bad...

7 years ago 0

@NilsG
NilsG commented

Yamazaki 18... I wish, it's become quite rare, and if you're lucky to find it you'll have to pay like 4 times as much as for the 12yo. Is it 4 times gooderer? Unfortunaty I wouldn't know.

7 years ago 0

@PeatyZealot
PeatyZealot commented

€109,- over here and available Im hoping to run into it at a tasting...

7 years ago 0

@BlissInABarrel
BlissInABarrel commented

great review nils. i lurves the yamazaki 12 year and find it to be a rounded, cyclical kind of drink. i have the caramel hits my nasal cavity and it essentially holds all of the notes below---the dark raspberry fruit that eventually peaks up with peppercorn spices and it pulls back into a raspberry fruit towards the end. i know this sucker is aged in ex bourbon casks, sherry casks and ex plum wine barrels...do you know how long they're placed in each barrel??/ let me know! also, i'm looking forward to hearing your other japanese whisky reviews....(one day we dram together and hit up all 4 distilleries! FACK YA!)

7 years ago 0

@NilsG
NilsG commented

@FishInABarrel don't know the ratio for the aging of the different barrels. Instead I can only make the whole thing more complicated by telling you that they also use multiple types of still pots too. Again this can be credited to Keizo, who figured it would be better to use pot stills of varying shape and size within the distillery to make for even more complexity when mixed together. So not only is there a question about how long the spirit spent in each type of barrel, but also which still's spirit has been in what barrel. We have some detective work ahead of us when you get here.

7 years ago 0

@NilsG
NilsG commented

@ZealyPeatot Wow, I never understood the pricing of bottles between countries. Here in Japan I pay about half the american price for a bottle of Taketsuru 12, but in Europe (sorry, I cheated my way through geography in school, where is Breda?) you get Yamzak 18 for about €60 less than here. And I just found out the other day Ardbeg Uigeadail and Corryvreckan is a lot cheaper in Japan than Australia.

7 years ago 0

@BlissInABarrel
BlissInABarrel commented

Dude yoichi 15 is $129 and my store carries hibiki for $58. What a rip

7 years ago 0

@PeatyZealot
PeatyZealot commented

@NilsG

No me neither... But Im starting to realise that Im blessed here in the Netherlands (where Breda is:) Especially in the webshops I can get things for a very good price, and that price is often lower than what the Brits pay for their bottles of Scotch. Check for example www.drankgigant.nl a Shop nearby sells its Talisker 18 for €67,50...

7 years ago 0

@NilsG
NilsG commented

@PeatyZ I wish I didn't check out that site. Now I'm just jealous! lol One more reason I have to go to the Netherlands.

7 years ago 0

@PeatyZealot
PeatyZealot commented

@ NilsG

Still some good traders left over here! (y)

7 years ago 0

@NilsG
NilsG commented

If I'm lucky I'll get to go to Netherlands in my work this year.

7 years ago 0

@PeatyZealot
PeatyZealot commented

Really? What do you do for a living? Would be cool to meet up and drop a few drams! Or maybe even visit the Millstone distillery Keep me up on that one

7 years ago 0

@BlissInABarrel
BlissInABarrel commented

Wow everyone wants to drink with you nils!! I'm so yealous (that's how you swedes say it, right ? :p) gotta make tons of money so I can meet connosr pals!

7 years ago 0

@NilsG
NilsG commented

What?! There are two new comments in a review I've written my self and commented in, and I didn't get any email notification. Just noticed it now cause I came here and wrote a new review. Wonder how many more times it has happened? I know I don't get notifications about the "which glass" discussion thread for instance. Man I don't wanna seem like I ignore people's questions/comments.

@PeatyZealot I work for a company importing a lot of stuff from Europe and North America, and one of the main manufacturers I'm dealing with is Dutch. I'll probably go to Europe this spring, but as it looks now Netherlands is not in the schedule I'm afraid (ToT)

@BIAB Yeah, get rich already!

7 years ago 0

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