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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.