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I know very little about Japanese whisky. I have enjoyed a dram or two of it on rare occasions, but I have never truly delved into what makes it unique and special. Shame on me. Having reviewed only one blended Japanese release so far, this will be my first review of a single malt from my neighbors to the north. And without giving anything away; this stuff literally blew my socks off. And by literally, I mean figuratively. My socks stayed on. Don’t you hate it when people misuse literally? I’m babbling. Anyway, here are my notes:
Nose: Earthy, with damp peat and deep oak. Leather. The sweetness here is reminiscent of milk chocolate, candied apples, and maple toffee. Wonderful dark fruit notes, like cherries, plum, and black currents, with a bit of orange rind. There are some herbal notes here, most noticeably ginseng. Complex and wonderfully inviting.
Palate: Upon arrival, this whisky presents a smooth and somewhat creamy mouthfeel. Gentle, silky smoke. Tea,ginseng, toffee, dark sherry fruits, plum. All these flavours are almost flawlessly integrated.
Finish: Candied fruit, like caramelized apples and strawberries. Hints of smoke. Maple toffee and rich caramel. Lingering herbal notes. A very long, semi-dry finish with a wonderfully gentle lingering spice.
I suppose what’s most interesting about the Yamazaki 18 is the attention to detail. From the grains to the yeast to the barrel selections and the unique ageing process, there’s nothing here that doesn’t suggest a top-notch production. Seems like everything was chosen and prepared with the highest regard for quality. But despite that, it doesn’t feel like an overly ‘engineered’ whisky, either. There was surely a lot of love that went into making this stuff.
Everything here worked well for me, personally speaking. If this were simply a sherried whisky, it would be great. Likewise, if it were strictly peated, or strictly an ex-bourbon casked release, it would still be wonderful. I don’t know much about Japanese oak, but I can assume it played no small part in giving this dram such a distinctive taste. The combination of candied fruit and peat remind me ever-so-slightly of the Amrut Fusion. But with the addition of the different casks used, this stuff is considerably more layered. Also, the herbal, tea-like notes are quite distinctive and enjoyable. All the elements in here work harmoniously together. It’s complex, mature, and effortless. I love this stuff.