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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 ‘Bourbon Barrel’ expression of 2011 contains various single malts that were matured in first-fill bourbon casks for between 10 and 15 years prior to vatting and bottling.
The nose is lightly floral and very sweet, with honey, marzipan and cinnamon all being present. The dominating flavour on the nose, however, is vanilla.
The palate is medium-bodied, peppery and a tad oaky. Lemon flavours now take center stage, followed by more vanilla, marzipan and ginger. Towards the end a tannic dryness appears more and more forcefully.
The finish is of medium length, rather spicy and very dry. Vanilla and lemon flavours round this off.
In my opinion this is good quality malt whisky but without much character. While the sweetness on the nose is rather lovely, the tannic dryness of both palate and finish were less so. I am not too much impressed and much prefer the standard 12-year old bottling.