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Suntory Yamazaki 12 Year Old

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Suntory Yamazaki 12 Year Old

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Suntory Yamazaki 12 Year Old

Passover starts in less than 24 hours. As many of you know, in order to keep my whisky collection Kosher all year round, in the faint hope that one of my colleagues may one day join me for a dram, I seal off my access to it the night before. And before that I try to get one last review in. And more often than not it has been a Japanese whisky.

As usual, this is also the day that I made the Gefilte fish for our seders. My sister in law calls it “smelly fish” because when it cooks it really stinks. We had all the windows open and the fan son and still…but I digress.

This mini of Yamazaki 12 was a gift from @Talexander who, I believe, got it at auction. It looks old. There is a faded batch number etched onto it but I can’t make it out. A Yamazaki must be a great last dram before 8 days without whisky.

This expression is reviewed in my usual manner in a Brilliant Highland Whisky glass, allowing it to settle after which I take my nosing and tasting notes, followed by the addition of a few drops of water, waiting, then nosing and tasting.

Nose: 21.5/25

Rich, sweet nose. Very fresh. Some cherries, purple grape juice. Slightly spirity. Flawless nose but not too complex. No change with water.

Taste: 20/25

Very spirity on first arrival. Quite an alcohol nip.Peppery in the development. It’s fruity (dark red fruits) but it is overshadowed by the alcohol. Water thins the mouthfeel and tones down the bitterness a little. I get a slight hint of menthol. (20.5/25)

Finish: 20/25

Peppery on the finish, fairly long. A little less bitter with water. (20.5/25)

Balance: 20/25

The alcohol nip and the pepperiness overwhelm the pleasant sherry influence. Slightly better with water.

Score: Neat - 81.5/100 With Water: 82.5/100

I don’t want to jump to conclusions. A mini of uncertain age, and acquired at auction, with no knowledge of storage conditions over the years. I very much doubt that a fresh, well-stored bottle of Yamazaki 12 would be anything like this.

To all those celebrating this weekend, I wish you a happy holiday.

Happy Easter and Happy Passover!

@Nozinan thank you for your review. I think that your caveats about the mini are well-advised.

My own history with Yamazaki 12 yo is that I tasted it first about 11 years ago at a restaurant and didn't like it. I had another glass at a different restaurant a couple of months later that I thought was great. Maybe six months after that, this being 2011, I saw a bottle offered for sale at what was then an excellent price of about $ 45. I bought the bottle and liked it very much, though the three bottles from which I had drunk seemed like they could have been 3 different whiskies. I still have 1/4 of that bottle today, in 2022. It has evolved greatly over the years, but is still quite good. I greatly miss the BANANAS which were all over the taste and smell of it for the first 2 years it was open. No more bananas now.

Do I like having Yamazaki 12 in my cabinet? Sure. It's a very nice whisky. But I would be unlikely to pay more than $ 80-90 for a bottle at this point, not the $ 220 average world asking price which it now fetches.


I poured another 10 cc from the sample bottle and if I had to rate it tonight I would probably give it 84-85. Different day, different palate. No fish cooked tonight…


The color is a dark, rich gold for such a light-tasting whiskey, suggesting artificial coloring, but I honestly have no clue.

The nose is sharply fruity, with a zing of passion fruit and tart white fruit like pear and lemon. There is also a slight beefiness or muskiness that reminds me of An Cnoc or perhaps Tomintoul, with other savory notes like butter, cream, and barley.

On the tongue, it is sharply sweet and finishes pretty long. Further tasting yields a buttery softness, more of the pear and passion fruit, and a lollipop-like sweetness. The slight vegetal mustiness and oiliness are welcome side notes in a whiskey that would otherwise be a bit too plainly sweet.

Overall, Yamazaki clearly demonstrates the Japanese dedication to crafting authentic and capable single malts that could give some native scotches a run for their money. It's elegant and well worth tasting. The price in my part of the U.S.A. is a demerit; there are better and cheaper single malts out there. The bottle is nice to look at, but has a plain screw-on lid as a little oddity. That's not a problem for me.


Tasting Notes

Appearance: Honey gold

Nose: Insistent Sweet, floral, tropical fruits, mild honey

Palate: Smooth and steady Starts sweet, developing spiciness initially, fruity, creamy, mild citrus

Finish: Medium Sweetness lingers, mild spiciness, fruits and vanilla pudding

As with most Japanese whiskies I've tasted, this one drowns easily in water, so proceed with caution when tasting initially. Personally, I keep water far away from this stuff.

Conclusion: Lovers of Speyside and Highland single malts will enjoy this whisky immensely. It is a high-quality dram and has earned a permanent place in my collection. The upcoming price increase, however, makes an already-pricey whisky a little less attractive...


I kinda expected more from this, though it was an okay dram. Yamazaki 18 yrs, though with a different kind of palate, had given a great introduction to Yamazaki, so 12YO was a bit disappointing.

Suntory Yamazaki 12 yrs is still a nice, surprisingly heavy whisky for its palate and ABV level. That's always a good thing in my book. I couldn't come up with a better movie reference but I'm going to call this one "The Heat".

"The Heat" because it packs tropical fruits in a teeth kicking and warming palate, like girl energy that Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy offer in their flick.

Nose: Warming cinnamon with heavy floral notes and zesty tropical fruits.

Taste: Medium body. Fresh citrus notes with vanilla and caramel.

Finish: Medium length, fruity and bit stingy. Pineapples and oak.

Balance: Smoothly in balance but feels strong still. Heavy stuff in a smooth package!


Warm slow spicy arrival develops a modest long slow fruit and grainy middle with a fast bitter sour finish.

That is funny, @vanPelt! And true.

@vanPelt, maybe, after all of the gross verbiage and sundry prose, all @Connosr reviews should end with an original Haiku version of the review. It would be a good discipline. (But we wouldn't likely get many reviews.)

Almost a Haiku-- how appropriate! :-)


En nez, onctueux, douceur noix de pécan, caramel léger, odeurs printanières. En bouche: décollage léger, frais, piquant, fruité, noyaux de cerise avec une teinte lactée. Une finale sur la fraicheur et le miel.


This is the whisky that began my journey of single malts. For years I've drank the regulars: JW Black Label,Pinch, Glenlivet 12, Glenfiddich 12,etc. When I was first introduced to The Yamazaki 12, it was " love at first dram."WOW! Rich,sweet honey,med body, oak,balanced. They use 3 types of casks: Spanish Sherry,American oak,Japanese oak. After that I began my search for different Single malts to compare them to this one. Especially the Speyside single malts,since they're the closest profile The Yamazaki resembles. But yet, The Yamazaki has its own unique character. You wont be disappointed. Suntory distillery received the prestigious title of 2013 distillery of the year by the San Francisco Spirits Competition.


I cannot believe I have never reviewed a Yamazaki before! Then again, since Suntory products are not available in Ontario, I shouldn't be surprised. This is one of the world's greatest and most innovative distilleries. Founded by Shinjiro Torii and developed and crafted by Masataka Taketsuru (who would later found Nikka), they began distillation in 1924 high in the Japanese Alps. Yamazaki uses various sizes and shapes of pot stills with many different cask types, to craft award winning malts (their 25 Year Old and 1984 Vintage malts win countless awards). Suntory combines malts from both Yamazaki and Hakushu, with grain whiskies from one or both distilleries, to create their Hibiki blends.

The 12 Year Old is the mainstay of the range, launched on Mar 14 1984 and composed of malts matured in three different casks: toasted American oak puncheon, mizunara cask and ex-sherry cask.

The malt has a rich golden colour. On the nose, a wonderful combination of fruit (oranges, bananas, pineapple), spice (cinnamon, cloves), honey and some subtle vanilla. A little bit perfumy, and let's not forget the crisp malt. Very complex, gentle and balanced. Interestingly, water accentuates some dark fruits with a whiff of smoke.

On the palate there is a little more spice with some chilli pepper thrown in. More honey and vanilla - and definitely more oak in the mouth. Fruit pastry, buttered toast and more cinnamon. Water brings out more malt and honey - yum!

The finish is long and luxurious - a touch of smoke and sandalwood with the pepper, vanilla and dark fruits. It is a complex and spicy, yet gentle whisky - I cannot imagine anyone not enjoying this, though it doesn't set the world on fire - I prefer the 18 or even the Hibiki 12 Year Old blend. If you're interested, Jim Murray scores this a 90. If you live in Ontario, worth making this a regular purchase when travelling.


This particular bottle of the Yamazaki 12 was opened well over a year ago and has not only maintained it's elegance but become a little more mature as well. For example it's not as floral as I remember it to be.

The nose is an essay in poised elegance. Wild red berries covered in black peppercorns are drizzled with vanilla infused honey. There is a pinch of sea salt with a lonely cardamom pod surrounded by delicate wood shavings.

The dry palate is creamy chocolate dates sprinkled with nuts and raisins and finished with a flourish of cinnamon mist.

The finish is long and satisfying with a touch of spice and slices of banana.

This malt has grown in stature the last time I tasted a year ago. Either that or my feeble mind was simply unable to comprehend a good malt when it tasted one. In any case I'm glad I decided to revisit this gem.

Perfect title to describe this whisky.


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.


I tried the Yamazaki 18 recently and fell in love with it. It’s expensive. Too expensive. Given that I wasn’t willing to spend almost $200 on a bottle, the 12 seemed like a logical and much more affordable follow-up. This is a good whisky to be sure. But I have to admit I was a bit biased going into this tasting. I was expecting a younger version of the 18, and this isn’t it. However it’s still a nice whisky, despite being much simpler.

Nose: Fruity, with some nice tropical notes. Bananas, apples, pears, and tangy oranges. Light, rich honey.

Palate: A bit more kick than the nose suggested. Banana and pear. Gentle, earthy smoke. Sweet honey and chocolate. Very oaky.

Finish: Dry, medium finish. Some pleasant peppery spice. Orange. The strong oak presence from the palate remains This is a nice whisky, but the 18 is much better. Unfortunately, it’s also much more expensive. As an affordable member of the Yamazaki family, the 12 isn’t bad at all. It’s. As other reviews have said, this is a good introduction to Japanese whisky. It’s a good starting point as long as you don’t stop here. Hopefully this dram will grab your interest enough to make you want to explore Japanese single malts even further. But it’s not just a simple introductory dram, there is some character here. I like the heavy oak and spice, which gives it intensity beyond what the nose suggested. It’s also got some interesting tropical fruity notes, which was unexpected. It’s worth trying for sure. But the truly great stuff from Yamazaki is considerably more expensive, sadly. But this is a good and affordable alternative, so it’s worth trying.

@CanadianNinja: Very true, and I have to admit that I am one of those 'many people.' I should not have approached this whisky with any expectations, but I did. Rookie mistake. Hopefully my review doesn't sound too disappointed, because the Y12 is actually a damn fine whisky in its own regard.

@Victor: I quite enjoy the banana note too. I've encountered it with a few whiskies so far, most notably this one, the Amrut Single Malt, and to a lesser extent a couple of the bourbon casked Kavalan releases. It usually pops up in the kind of flavour profiles that I'd describe as 'tropical,' although that's not always the case.

I've just bought a bottle of the 18yo Yamazaki and taken half of the bottle over a couple of weeks and followed up or started with drams of Macallan fine oak, Glenlivet 18, Springbank 15 and Highland Park 30yo. It's good to taste the main dram in contrast with other drams over several sessions. I also tried the Yamazaki 18 with and without water and different cigars (spoiling myself this summer) and indeed it is a quality offering, but would be better at 46% + abv imo. On reflection the 12yo is enough though, hits the spot and is more memorable (sweet, ginger, long dry) The 18yo whilst as lovely and oaky-sweet as it is, has some serious competition from Scotch Whiskies at half the price 15 to 18 yo. I'm also starting to think I'm not that sure whether I like whisky older than 15-18 years. Can be too rich and not fresh enough. I'll probably come across a wonder dram to change that thought one day.


Tasted a glass of this Japanese whisky at a bar near my home. I enjoyed it very much. Not too complex and with a finish that is medium at best, but it has a very pleasant palate indeed, especially in hot weather.

Scents of dried apricots and other fruits. Honey and vanilla on the tongue. Slightly wood finish with more vanilla.

No inharmonious flaws in this whisky. A nice dram for a bar when you are engaged in conversation with a friend and not paying too much attention to what you are drinking.



I had a bottle of Yamazaki 12 in my cabinet since a few months and i expected to taste it with Sashimi. Tonight I poured 3 cl in a classic malt glass and, at last, tasted it neat with some of those beloved japanese dishes and, well...I was a bit disappointed. I liked the very shy and delicate touch of smoke (can it even be called smoke ?) at the finish, but not much the citrusy bittersweet nose, that seemed to me a bit unidimensional, lacking in complexity. I had my first experience in japanese malt with Yoichi, and 15 years may be the favourite of my beginner cabinet, so i wanted to experiment a Suntory malt expression and was expecting something else. Something rounder if not smoother (Yamazaki is definitly a smooth whiskey)but i missed something... So I tried with a little help of an ice cube and... My ! Ice seemed to reveal this whisky instead of killing it, like it would do for a scottish malt. Still smooth, but with rounder fruity notes. My wife immediatly mentionned almond syrup (that we call orgeat in france)and i definitly agree, and still this light smoke mixed with summer fruits and almonds that reminds me a summer nightfall in the sunny south of France. Even the texture seemed creamier... I was stunned by this metamorphosis ! Is it to say that this whisky is, in a way, crafted for japanese serve or japanese taste ? Perfect mizuwari whisky ? I don't know, but all i know is that Yamazaki 12 on the rocks is a delicious relaxing and "gourmand" japanese malt.


I had a bottle of Yamazaki in my cabinet since a few months and i expected to taste it with Sashimi. Tonight I poured 3 cl in a classic malt glass and, at last, tasted it neat with some of those beloved japanese dishes and, well...I was a bit disappointed. I liked the very shy and delicate touch of smoke (can it even be called smoke ?) in the finish, but not much the citrusy bittersweet nose, that seemed to me a bit unidimensional, lacking in complexity. I had my first experience in japanese malt with Yoichi, and 15 years may be the favourite of my beginner cabinet, so i wanted to experiment a Suntory malt expression and was expecting something else. Something rounder if not smoother (Yamazaki is definitly a smooth whiskey)but i missed something... So I tried with a little help of an ice cube and... My ! Ice seemed to reveal this whisky instead of killing it, like it would do for a scottish malt. Still smooth, but with rounder fruity notes. My wife immediatly mentionned almond syrup (that we call orgeat in france)and i definitly agree, and still this light smoke mixed with summer fruits and almonds that reminds me a summer nightfall in the sunny south of France. Even the texture seemed creamier... I was stunned by this metamorphosis ! Is it to say that this whisky is, in a way, crafted for japanese serve or japanese taste ? Perfect mizuwari whisky ? I don't know, but all i know is that Yamazaki 12 on the rocks is a delicious relaxing and "gourmand" japanese malt.

Why "Yamazaki" label doesn't appear in the title of my review ? Must have missed something...


Got this at Wholefoods for $42, which was the cheapest i could find.
Nose of sherry and dry Oak, honey, vanilla, candied oranges. Loads of Spiced wood on the palate some toffee. Finish is about med with sweet oaky finish.

I'd say it was a very good whisky for $42. its a good introduction to japanese whisky. Its not top of the notch but a very good whisky indeed

Great price! Score! It's much more expensive where I live.


Chit chatting with my new favorite whisky bartender the other night, I looked up and saw a couple Japanese labels up on the shelves. I've been hearing a lot of talk about the Japanese scene here on Connosr, so I asked him about them.

He said he was a fan. He immediately proceeded to climb the ladder and bring down both the Yamazaki and the Hukushu, which I'll get to in a bit.

He poured me a dram of the Yamazaki and, as with every other dram of the night, left me with the bottle. Awesome bartenders make things more awesome.

Nose: First whiff, the alcohol is very prominent. I take a look at the bottle and see that it's only 43%. That's a bit more burn for the ABV than I tend to care for. The rest of the nose is pretty distant. I had to hunt a little at first, but then it started to open up. Florals, honey, fruitiness... Hm. Not bad!

Palate: This is a very, very sweet dram. Reminds me of a speyside-esque type malt. Rose pedals, cherry, a lot of fruit going on that lends itself to more of a tropical feel than an orchard. A very pleasant, summary palate.

Finish: Somewhat short for my liking, but still very pleasant. Definitely getting more of the floral notes here that I picked up from the nose, and with a deep breath those florals, honey and vanilla come creeping back up my throat. Nice profile there, just wish it was longer!

Balance: Eh. Not amazing. The nose needs some work - it's very faint, and the alcohol right up front for 43% is a bit of a turn off. But hey, I would still drink the stuff if offered to me!

Interesting! I'm curious as to see what the order of the pouring was that night? Ha it's interesting to hear your experiences of this bottle! I really like the Yamazaki 12 and I'm laughing at myself because my initial reaction is , 'oh no! Give it a chance, Jon!!! This stuff is good!" But I forget that we all of different preferences! :) I don't know if this information is interesting to you or not but this on is aged in ex bourbon casks, sherry casks and ex plum wine barrels. Perhaps that's why it's too sweet for yo because of that

Ah usually when i go to whisky tastings they go in a certain order. You start off with a mellow one and progress to something that's more robust. If you start off with a peaty one and then hit up a speyside that's 80 proof then that speyside may taste all weak. At least that's how the brand ambassadors do it . I guess its kinda like eating a cake and then you bite into a chocolate bar and the chocolate doesn't taste as sweet because your mouth is overwhelmed with sugar from the cake. Who knows...looks like u gotta try it again ...heheheh and if u don't like it again hen u know to stay away from these types of whiskies


Its Light colour and fruity nose gave me an expectation of a light whisky. Even the first sips revealed fruit, spice,freshness. But 30 minutes later the whisky had changed...Sweetness, brown sougar, an oily long long finish...a wonderfull transformation. Definetly worth buying a bottle of this stuff.


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.

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!)

@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.


The scent starts on the nose with a green, citrus freshness, which is offset by the slightest medicinal scent. Overall, the bouquet is bright and inviting.

The taste is slightly sharp, echoing the smell, with floral, musty undertones. Hints, perhaps, of maple that just teases at another level of complexity.

As the tingle of the alcohol subsides, the after taste is dry, but complex on the palette, with a rich lingering, woodiness.

This is an exceptionally, easy drinking whisky, perhaps only missing a little more depth on the tongue. As my first foray into the world of Japanese whisky, the Suntory Yamazaki 12 Year old was a strong standard bearer, and certainly peaks my interest to explore their products further.


I bought the Hibiki 12 and 17yo at Christmas and really enjoyed their silky smoothness but thought they lacked a little kick. The Nikka from the Barrel sorted that out and is in my top five, now I've discovered this Suntory Yamazaki at a great Soho retailer.

The aromas are an overwhelming array of dry oak, cedar wood, sweet cherry, jasmine, coffee, ginger and nutmeg... on the palate the arrival is clean and crisp with a light truffle oil followed by spicy limes, tons of light oak, light tobacco, parchment, and orange peel... the finish is long, spicy, dry and crisp with hints of mint and melon.

An excellent summer whisky, fresh, crisp and immaculate, the 43% abv is perfect.


Now my wife and I are finally on our way to Helvetica the whisky bar that we've been trying to go to for months now. We're excited, myself more then her. We're going to meet my brother and sister in law at Helvetica as they're leaving work and grabbing dinner before joining us.

The city is alive as we walk from the restaurant where we started the evening with some italian and Glenfarclas 12 yr old.

We walk into Helvetica. It's this a little hole in the wall in a part of the back alley and doesn't look like much as we walk in. Then everything changes.

A wall of sound hits us as we walk in and our immediately surrounded by drinkers starting their night out, but what hits me the most is the sight of dozens and dozens of good whisky bottles! This should be a good night!!

My wife and I grab a couple seats in the corner and she sits down as I head to the bar for our first drink. Now I know what we're starting the night with, but my wife doesn't. Blind tastings for my lovely wife all night.

The first whisky of the evening is one that my wife has been wanting to try for months now. The Yamazaki 12 yr old. She's been extremely eager to try it as she's curious how the japanese whiskies are different then the american whiskies and scotch.

However I won't tell my wife won't she's tasting until afterwords because as my wife says she sometimes decides in advance if she thinks she'll like something or not. So blind we go!

I bring the tulip glass with the Yamazaki 12 yr old back to our table and offer it to my wife. She smells and goes "Smells like what I think cherry blossoms smell like"

We hand it back and forth between the two of us, each nosing and describing what we smell. I also get something along the lines of cherry blossoms or what I would imagine a nice walk through the woods in Japan on a nice spring day with the cherry blossoms blooming.

As we continue to nose we get oak, butter, vanilla, a huge hit of cherry blossoms or some sort of floral and a hint of alcohol tinge. This is a different whisky from what we're used to.

We then drink. I hand the glass to my wife for the first drink and she comes back with "very dry, lots of oak" I take a sip and I get the oak and the dryness, then we start getting a hint of honey and vanilla, but the oak seems to have a strong presence on the tongue. It's not unpleasant, but this is definitely a whisky I'm going to have to be in the mood for.

My wife looks at me and tells me that she doesn't care for this whisky and what whisky is this. She looks very surprised when I tell her that this is the Yamazaki 12 yr old and looks a bit disappointed.

The finish is long, but with quite a bit of oak and quite a bit of unpleasant bitterness.

The Yamazaki 12 yr old isn't a bad whisky, but at the going rate of $100 bucks AUS per bottle it's not value worth money for me. I'd prefer a bottle of Talisker 10 yr old or Macallan 12 yr old Fine Oak for cheaper.

Next whisky on the block is the Hakushu 12 yr old! I'm hoping this will be a little bit better.

It was interesting you said it's s whisky you need to be in the mood for. I feel the same, although I think I mean that in a more positive way. Have you tried it again after the reviewed occasion? This is one of the whiskies I've had the most times (being one of my favourites). But I've had quite varying experience from time to time. For me, and I guess for most people, my mind set and just the condition of my palate at the time have a significant effect on how much I enjoy a dram. But it seems the Yamazaki 12 has the greatest variation when it comes to "mood of the day" effect. Even going to the very same bottle just a couple of days apart can deliver different sensations.

Now, Yamazaki 12 is a whisky that feel emotionally connected too, so it would be strange if my mood didn't play a part. But I wonder if there aren't whiskies that by nature require a certain mind set to be appreciated fully. Although being one if my favs, I sometimes haven't been able to enjoy Yamazaki as much as I know I can.

It makes perfect sense! Again this is something that whisky has in common with music (I always say whisky and music are almost one and the same, just approaching different senses).

There are songs that you have to be in the mood for, and others that will set the mood for you. Some music can be very difficult to appreciate if you don't first have learned to appreciate some intermediate form of it.

I think Ardbeg 10 is a whisky that I could have in any mood, and any particular thing on my mind, good or bad, would just be peated out of there. There can be a zen like aspect to drinking whisky.


The nose is a delightful bouquet of desserts and floral goodness. My first impression is strong custard, cookies and butterscotch. Mixed in with that are tiny rose petals sprayed with lavender mist. One of the most unique and floral noses you will ever come across. The palate is quite dry and unassuming. It doesn't deliver with aplomb as it should! (Maybe it needs a few more ABVs but I think I've just developed a taste for the stronger stuff!) There is honey and toffee tossed in hay and pencil shavings. The late cinnamon and nutmeg bring on the spice. The finish is satisfyingly long!]

I still want to see this as a 48% as opposed to the 43% it currently is. But what do I know?

Thanks for a good review. Like you, I also perceive this as dry. I like dry.

The most distinct nose and palate flavour I always associate with Yamazaki 12 is BANANAS! ...I like bananas, too!


Colour is significantly darker than the previous tastes ... sherry influence. Nose is vanilla, butterscotch and some flower blossom aromas. Relatively simple (two note I guess). First taste follows the same profile, some sweet and some charcoal.


What started out as a nice date with a pleasant friend, soon dwindled & became disheartening! The nose actually started floral and turned slightly sweet & citrusy w/alcohol lingering; nice way to set the pace, Nippon friend. The palate started slightly oily, non-descript, slight anise & spice, pleasant once again, a nice date w/ a girl that you feel won't embarrass you (but nothing special either). Then you wait for the casual conversation & kiss on the finish of the dram... and what starts as average ends up with a long, lingering burnt tobacco, really a cigarette taste, from an old filter, that has been passed around by a dozen hippies who never brush their teeth (and I speak from experience back in '77). The tobacco doesn't hit you for about 1-2 minutes into the finish... and then it gets stronger... definitely ashtray. Another taste on the palate temporarily hides the finish, but then it returns again, blooming even! There is no hiding this one. I tried my best to appreciate the uniqueness, but frankly, I can't. To those of you who disagree... I respect you. This is one whisky that I feel has VERY limited appeal with even less to appreciate.

I too am a little surprised at the low score, however, I’ve had a couple of bottles of this and there definitely was a difference between them. The first, purchased at Gatwick duty free, was a true wonder that enthused me to go straight out and buy a second, which, if I’m honest was a little bit of a let down. Different batch, different year who knows. So maybe @Ian2424 just got unlucky. But I would definitely give it another go.

@Piero I’ve had a bottle of the Yamazaki puncheon and the Miyagikyou 12 year old sitting in my cupboard gathering dust for some time now. I hadn’t been able to choose which to open first, and was waiting for some inspiration. I think you may have just swung it.

@cclward do check out the other reviews of this whisky before you make up your mind not to try it: connosr.com/reviews/suntory-yamazaki/…

All of them are far more favourable.


This was first foray into Japanese whiskey and I'm sad to say I was disappointed. Starts off promisingly flavorful, but lacks depth and complexity the rest of the way down. Reminded me of a pale imitation of Johnnie Walker Black.


I first tried the Yamazaki a few years back at my first Whisky Live show, and found it to be such a smooth and enjoyable whisky at the time when i was just getting into the malts. Then i found the 12 year when i went the following year, and that was it for me. The taste is superb, it leaves a wonderful feeling as it glides down the throat, and i have fell in love with it there and then.

I've had the 18yr as well, but although that is one of the best i've had, it doesnt feel as right and as complete as this whisky. To me the 12yr Yamazaki is the perfect age, the perfect colour, and the most wonderful aroma. Now i find nothing better than sitting down with a glass, neat as thats the only way i drink Japanese malts, and a cigar on the go after my first few sips.

I wonder if you had a special bottling or if it still tastes as good. The average rating when compared with yours is so low. I will try it and comment. My new reviews will be quite brief. I'm learning to cut them down like yours.

This is the one. I see. Thanks. It's now on my "try" list at a bar near me. There is a bar called "Pok Pok" that stocks it.


When I was very young, a special treat for us Deep South Louisianians was a trip to the State Fair! And always, we were fascinated by the cotton candy man and his magic machine. We watched, entranced as the machine spun the filaments of reddish sugar, whilst, around the edges the vendor swooped down a pointed paper cone to the side and the ball of spun magic grew larger and larger. What artistry! Something out of the Chronicles of Narnia!

I loved that taste as a child--now I find it a bit "over-the-top" sweet. Almost "cloying."

Maybe my tastes have changed? When I was 18 I liked Mogen David Blackberry wine....now I wouldn't touch it. I like a fine Cabernet or a Pinot Noir now. Maybe that's it. Maybe a virtual beginner would like the sugar.

My first impression on my very first sip of Yamazaki 12 was "liquid Cotton Candy," only, with a dash of alcohol to spice it up. I was a little surprised, but not in a "gimme somemore NOW" way.

As with cotton candy, I could never sustain the wonderful magic moments of the first lip-smacking sugar, I could not bear that sweetness in this scotch: it was SO dominant as to overpower anything else.

On nosing from a Glencairn glass (I can really get my nose in this sucker!) I could get a good whiff of alcohol--I thought that a good thing! Creeping around the alcohol, I could almost hear the sound of a candy bar being unwrapped. You know the sound....your brother would come running and say, "I want some!"

A tiny sip: Alcohol(slight) with maybe the taste of a Junior Mint. Slight warming at back of throat. Another sip: a little Peppermint--the red and white ones you get as you leave the restaurant, which they don't tell you, is bad for your Reflux: ironic, isn't it?

I now realize I'm having Dessert, and I just didn't know it. I NEVER have dessert BEFORE a big meal, so I would never have this dram as a prelude to eating.

In fact, pass on the mints as you leave the restaurant and have a Yamazaki.

Strangely, I think I would only ever drink but ONE of these, no more....and not 2 ounces either...perhaps a "wee dram."

Many singe malts I've tasted had me restraining myself for more: Highland Park 12, 18; Glenmorangie 10 Original; Balvenie Single Cask, Talisker 10, 18. I'd even drink Glenlivet TWICE, and it's the scotch I keep out for "uninvited guests."

I've read there is a Yamazaki 18 which has rave reviews...I'm not inclined to spend $100 to see.

And, for now, I'll place this one out for my uninvited buddies and tell them, "Here, have a liquid candy bar! And, if they want yet another, why, I'll be happy to oblige!

I’ve had a couple of bottles of the 12 year old and to be honest, I’m not quite sure where I stand with it. The first bottle was wonderful, very fruity and fructose in taste. However, when I got my second bottle, I was somewhat disappointed, as the sweetness seemed to have moved to a kind off bubble gum saccharin that coated the tongue. I left it at the back of my cabinet for a while, hoping that it was all in my head, but its defiantly a very different taste. I just had a look in the 2010 whisky bible and noticed that it was given 2 different scores. The 2009 bottling scored 93.5. Then 83 with a with a note about an increase in oak and caramel levels. In summary I just suppose it’s a case which bottling you get.

Not to niggle, but Yamazaki isn't scotch, for a start. It's distilled in Japan, which certainly accounts for at least a few of its peculiarities. But yes, I agree with LeFrog that it is certainly not the sweetest whisky out there. I take it you're not much of a bourbon fan. ;-)


While thinking of a way to sum-up my feelings about the Yamazaki 12yo, I was reminded of the legendary pianist, Glenn Gould, who wrote that, when playing Mozart piano sonatas, he derived the most enjoyment, not from the music, but rather from the physical sensation of his fingers playing the sequence of notes.

Likewise, for me, the enjoyment of the Yamazaki 12yo is intensely physical.

NOSE: Powerful and bracing, despite being honeyish and buttery. The listing of specific aromas (cake, almond, vanilla, and butter) belies the power felt when nosing the Yamazaki 12yo.

Adding water makes little difference to the nose.

Oddly enough, when I sat down with a proper tulip-shaped glass to do this formal review, I did not experience the rich nosing experience that I had had, informally, when drinking this in a tumbler glass at various hotels in Asia. I therefore went back to a tumbler glass and the nose became much better. Odd.

PALATE: Now, we’re really getting physical, despite the addition of such “soft” attributes as creamy, caramel and toffee to the list of aromas detected in the nosing.

This whisky goes on to infiltrate every accessible nook, cranny, cavity and interstice of your mouth and sinuses. Such a sensory, almost anatomical, onslaught could have been aggressive, but in my case the effect has always been immensely pleasurable and physically gratifying.

Adding water makes the palate a bit more buttery and pleasantly bitter, but at 43% it also dilutes the taste more rapidly than for other whiskies. I would recommend adding water one drop at the time, and tasting after each drop.

Contrary to many Japanese whiskies, the Yamazaki 12yo is not really oily or viscous.

FINISH: Medium to long. The buttery and bitter elements are the ones that remain to the end. The bitter finish helps avoid sweetness saturation and it gets one’s mouth ready for the next sip.

APPRECIATION: This is a really interesting (and enjoyable) malt. The specific aromas and tastes could all be described as soft, yet the overall effect is one of bracing strength, robustness, and richness. The image that comes to mind is “Viking Mead”; sweet and honeyish but definitely not a ladies’ drink. The strong taste should not, however, make one forget that this is bottled at 43% (ie. go easy on the water).

This bottling is available at most duty-free stores in Asia, and many in Europe, for about U$50, about half of the Yamazaki 18yo. In my personal opinion the 12yo is much better than the 18yo (which I will review soon) and is a good example that “older is not better”, a concept that I am just starting to grasp.

Glenn Gould disliked Mozart. He even said that Mozart died quite late, rather than too soon! That's why he said he liked the physical part of moving his fingers more than the music itself. It makes your title quite ironic...

Yes, the Gould/Mozart analogy cannot be carried too far. Actually "disliked" is a euphemism; I seem to remember that he wrote that he forced himself to record all of Mozart's piano sonatas to show the world what a lousy composer Mozart was.


I sipped a glass of this amazing find in a small whiskey bar near my dwelling in SE Portland. The first taste that hit me was butter, small amount of maple with hints of honey and then at last a light smoke flavor.

I just bought this bottle! Thought I would take a sip to relax I have one more exam this week...and throw my 2 cents in. First smell is slightly sweet - not like some nauseating drink with skewered fruit - I get the butter, not as much as the warm caramel, smokiness, and yes...light peat wrapped around my tongue, butterscotchy, [something citrus?] SO nice on the smooth slightly warm finish! There is something else there - haven't placed it yet...but the bottle was just opened! Worth the $49.00 in my opinion. Perfect for this rainy cold day.

Nice simple review.


Color: Golden Sunlight

Nose: fruity notes (pears?) , vanilla and some oak (Japanese oak), it has a unique nose in my opinion, slightly differnt than the average Speyside malt. Yet, i cant put my finger on it and say what... interesting.

Palate: Starts with a sweetness, a bit heathery. Next i sense a gentle and welcoming spiciness, which turns a bit peppery towards the finish. Some barley notes are evident as well. It would be interesting to taste this malt at Cask Strength. Wishful thinking....

Finish: The finish is again dominated by Pears and a wee bit of apple puree which lingers quite nicely. The pepper is also there, but in a nice way, combining with the fruity apple-pears combo. A wee bit of smoke? can it be so?!

All in all, a very very good dram. and excellent for its price.


I bought my bottle of Suntory Yamazaki 12yr almost a year ago and I break it out on rare occasions. Not because it's the most spectacular dram but because it's so very different that scotch and I'm not always in the mood for it.

Don't get me wrong, this is some pretty impressive stuff and it make me want to try more. I don't drink it all the time but when I do, it make me happy.

The stuff noses like my dad's old bourbon (I always loved sneaking sniffs of my dad's bourbons when I was a kids because it burned my nose and made me sneeze - ah, to be 8 again...). The stuff has an initial bourbon-y element, some sour corn and alcohol. Followed by some honey and dried fruits. Like a scottish bourbon if there were one.

On the palate - Smooth honey and drying oak. This is one of the driest single malts I've ever had. This is a nice thing actually. Oh, some vanilla came through now, nice.

FInish - Dry & long. Honey and oak. The sour corn comes back too.

One thing that still throws me off is that this is not a corked bottle but a screw top. Strange but...cool. Arigato Japan!

Suntory and Nikka have an amazing selection of whiskeys. I sampled a bunch in Japan last week and some are strange and some are just outstanding. With anything, the Japanese take a lot a pride in thier alcohol production and it shows.

If you can find a bottle of suntory Hibiki its also quite good.

Tried this a couple of months ago. Everything was fine until the finish. There was a flavour that was so absolutely odd that I sat straight up in my seat. Have never encountered a taste like that in any other spirit. No idea what it was, it simply did not fit with the nose or initial attack. Very strange, perhaps I had a bad example.


This is a fine example of a beautiful whisky, not from Scotland.

What I get from the nose is a warm summers day. Running through a field, hands touching the wheat. Imagine that recurring scene from Gladiator - see: www.youtube.com/watch

On the body: This tastes of Asia. I get the smokey streets of China and the sometimes odd smells associated with them. I get a spicey woody smokey street vendors stand, cooking some odd sweet foodstuff. see: www.youtube.com/watch

There is a long and lingering finish. It is nice but is slightly sulfuric and a bit unpleasant at the same time. A bit like this - pleasant but not so off putting at the same time: s69344.gridserver.com/VTV19_56

Thank you very much for your fair review of Suntory. I have always admired this whiskey from the land of the rising Sun and your review parallels my opinion. Too bad so called whiskey snobs don't acknowledge this fine drink just like beer snobs refuse to give credit to Sapporo.

I've heard good things about this particular dram, and better things about the 18(?) year old product. Too many malts, not enough money... ;)

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