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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. This 12-year old was distilled in April 1993, matured in white oak hogsheads, and was bottled in April 2005 from cask no. 3P70277 with a total output of 176 bottles.
The nose is quite light and grassy. There is soft smoke, followed by smoked ham, hints of oak and pecan nuts. An unexpectedly complex nose, underpinned by delightful soft smoke.
The palate is oily, smoky and peppery. Smoked ham is again rather dominant, followed by peat smoke. Then there are lightly fruity flavours such as lychee and coconuts, topped by black pepper.
The finish is long and mouth watering. Smoked salmon as well as bacon are there, followed by astonishingly sweet elements such as marshmallows and jelly beans.
I greatly enjoyed this Yamazaki, a superbly crafted expression and testimony to what this distillery is capable of producing. Overall, smoky and sweet elements were in perfect balance. In other words: a great single malt!