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Yamazaki distillery was established in 1923 by the Kotobukiya Company, owned by Shinjiro Torii. It is located in Yamazaki, a small town situated between Kyoto and Osaka. Production started in 1924 with Masataka Taketsuru, the future founder of Yoichi distillery, as distillery manager. Kotobukiya changed its name to Suntory in 1929, and their first whisky, a blend made from their single malt and grain whiskies, was released in 1932. The distillery is located near the confluence of three rivers (Katsura, Kizu and Uji), in an area traditionally famous for its good water, and indeed the great tea master Sen no Rikyu chose to have his tea house there. Suntory claims that the three rivers meet each other at different temperatures, which causes mist that is good for storing whisky as it reduces the loss of moisture from the casks. Yamazaki’s first whisky was released in 1929. The 12-year old, an integral member of its core range, was first marketed in 1984.
The nose is sweet, mellow and nicely nutty. There are plenty of vanilla flavours, followed by a whiff of lemon biscuit and cheesecake.
The palate is rather light-bodied. It starts out being very light and soft, then slowly becomes more and more peppery. Again there is lots of vanilla, alongside some biscuit notes.
The finish is of medium length and lightly spicy. Towards the end it becomes nicely mouth-filling.
I like the Yamazaki 12yo. It is not too complex but very well balanced and easy to drink, especially during the Japanese summer that can be excruciatingly hot and humid. Although I personally like the Hakushu 12yo better, this certainly is a well crafted and well balanced single malt.