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Suntory Yamazaki 25 Year Old Sherry Cask

When the oak hammer hits

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@Pierre_WReview by @Pierre_W

4th Jan 2014


Suntory Yamazaki 25 Year Old Sherry Cask
  • Nose
  • Taste
  • Finish
  • Balance
  • Overall

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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 25-year old expression was first marketed in 1999 and is a limited edition with just 12,000 bottles available every year.

The nose is astonishingly sweet with intense flavours of prunes and liquorice, followed by espresso notes and honey. Next, flavours of port wine and balsamic vinegar develop.

The palate is medium-bodied, soft and quite silky on the tongue; however the flavours are super intense: distinct notes of sherry get together with liquorice, bitter chocolate, espresso, red wine, strawberry jam, and a distinct tannic dryness. Incredibly bold and assertive!

The finish is very dry, peppery, long and warming. The espresso is back, together with plenty, plenty of oaky flavours.

I took my time tasting this at Yamazaki distillery, and I really wanted to like it! Alas, this single malt was too pretentious for me, and especially the palate’s boldness and assertiveness were not much to my liking. What is more, both palate and finish were very oaky and were seriously compromising the nose that I quite enjoyed. In short, I have hardly ever tried a 25-year old that was similarly ostentatious, and I had expected more elegance from a single malt that goes for more than 1,000 US dollars.

Related Suntory Yamazaki reviews


MaltActivist commented

You know how, for no rhyme or reason, you become infatuated with something? You have no real reason for it other than the chemicals in your brain decided to play this little game with you.

This is what happened to me when for the first time I laid my eyes on the Yamazaki 25 Sherry Cask - my brain told me I just had to get my hands on this. I finally managed after a while (and at considerable cost, may I add). It now sits proudly on the top row of my shelf.

The question I ask my self is : Is it worth destroying the mystique? If I drink it and don't like it then am I doing my self a disservice by falling out of love? At least now my heart can put something on a pedestal and keep it there.

Basically, all I wanted to say was thanks for the review!

10 years ago 0

Victor commented

@Pierre_W, thanks for another very informative review. There are definitely some older malts which suffer from overbearing oak influence. This would be a very interesting one to try someday...Tabarak, if I ever get over you visit you, you can open your dream bottle then.

For $ 1,000 I would be expecting a whisky which I would be scoring at 97 points or better.

10 years ago 0

Pierre_W commented

@tabarakRazvi, @Victor, many thanks for your posts. Tabarak, I am actually very much impressed that you own a bottle of the Yamazaki 25yo. I know that in Japan it retails for more than 100,000 yen, a remarkable price tag indeed. Anyway, as I mentioned I did take my time tasting this at the distillery, I had tasted younger expressions before attending to the 25yo, but the two of us, we just would not connect. If it hadn't been for the overbearing oak influence this would have been a superb single malt. Maybe I just tasted from a slightly inferior batch and should have another go at it? Please let me know once you open your bottle as I might come and visit.

10 years ago 0

CaptinTom commented

It's a shame you didn't like this whisky. As for me, I too tasted it at the distillery,in November 2013, and to date it has been the highlight of my whisky world. At the same sitting I had the Yamazaki 1984 and for me the 25 was the winner. I can still vividly remember walking away from the distillery towards the station with this sensational warming glow. All around us the momiji (maple trees leaves)were a beautiful yellow and red, everything just encapsulated the quintessential Japanese autumnenal evening, and the wonderful aftertaste from the Yamazaki was still presant when our train pulled into Kyoto station. I feel privileged to have had the oppertunitly to have indulged in such a whisky, in such an awesome invironment. I would give this a 95.......

10 years ago 0

Pierre_W commented

Thanks for your post, @CaptinTom. Your comments make me wonder whether Yamazaki distillery, too, does have an issue with batch variation. In my memory this was a very oaky whisky. Too bad, really. On a side note I wish I could have tried the 1984 but there was no open bottle when I visited.

10 years ago 0

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