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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 Owner’s Cask bottling was distilled in 1997 and bottled in 2009 with a total outturn of 187 bottles.
The nose starts off with a good dose of wood spice, then turns fruity with plenty of orange and vanilla flavours, liquorice and caramel, followed by a touch of walnuts.
The palate is medium-bodied and just a tad spicy. Oranges and vanilla return as the main flavours, this time accompanied by cinnamon and a touch of honey.
The finish is long and warming, spicy and dry.
This bottling perfectly illustrates how multifaceted a 12-year old single malt can be: a sweet and fruity nose, followed by a rich and spicy palate in wonderful balance. The sweetness on both nose and palate works wonderfully well with the dryness of the finish. Also, the alcohol has been so well integrated that I never felt like trying this with water. A rich and satisfying Yamazaki that I was glad to have tasted. Many thanks for the sample, Clint A.!