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Suntory Yamazaki Distiller's Reserve

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Suntory Yamazaki Distiller's Reserve

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Suntory Yamazaki Distiller's Reserve

Yamazaki is the oldest distillery in Japan, founded in 1923 by Shinjiro Torii. They recently released the Yamazaki Distiller’s Reserve, a fruity whisky without age statement. According to the information that came with the bottle, it matured not only on Mizunara oak, but also in Bordeaux and sherry casks.

The nose bursts with red fruit. Think strawberry, red berries, raspberries and a hint of raisins. Soft notes of honey and vanilla underscore the sweetness of this nose. Nice coconut and banana as well. It stands out. Some cloves and a handful of cinnamon. The Japanese oak also adds a nice floral touch. This is good!

The palate is very soft. Silky soft, in fact. Again the vanilla and honey lead a basket full of fruit. The coconut is more outspoken than the red fruit, of which the raspberries shine through. Reminds me somewhat of candy floss. The spices are a bit louder, but certainly not dominant. The oak, however, does become loud after a few moments, but it certainly does not become oaky. Good balance.

The finish is wonderfully long on vanilla and cinnamon.

Yep, this is quite an excellent Japanese whisky, that proves yet again that a NAS-bottling is not de facto lesser whisky. And quite affordable for a dram of the rising sun.

@markjedi1 I enjoyed reading your Japanese whisky reviews.

I notice that you also discovered a lot of red fruit notes in this whisky. From my experience this whisky is highly consistent between bottles. I'd be interested to know, have you tried other bottlings of this expression, and was it equally as consistent for you?

@Frost: I have only tried two so far and I did not notice any difference between the two (having said that, I did not check if they came from the same batch or not).


This expression was first released in Spring 2014. It's a NAS which benefits from being matured in Bordeaux wine casks for 3 years. This has then been added with some older spirit matured in sherry casks (approx 20 yrs) as well as malt matured in Mizunara (Japanese Oak) casks which is alleged to be approx 12 years old. All of the casks are hand picked by Shinji Fukuyo who is only the 4th head blender in the Suntory distilleries 91 year history.

Nose: Soft nose with a sweetness underlying the fruitiness. Kirsch cherries, summer berries & sherry. There is a dusty honeyed note with sweet vanilla. It's a lovely welcoming nose that you are happy to spend a bit of time with. Not overly complex but wonderful and mysterious. There is a sweet oak note which is the mizunara and offers a fragrant and slightly spiced note.

Palate: The mouth feel is as soft and velvety as the nose promised. Vanilla, gentle wood influence with light spices, dried coconut, raisins, sherry, cherries. It is juicy and sweet.

Finish: The finish is just long enough to satisfy. Medium long, starting sweet and sticky but fading spices, and ending slightly dry.

All in all it is very drinkable and worth buying a bottle.

Very nice review Tjb,you only confirm what I have read about this whisky,that is its a fruity, tasty bang for your buck and its about time I opened my bottle! I've been meaning to for weeks.


A few years back a friend of mine and I were in Osaka. I mentioned to him that Yamazaki station was not far away by train, and at that, Yamazaki Distillery was but a day trip away. We set out early and approximately one hour later found ourselves at Yamazaki station - a small station in the countryside. We walked along a small road towards the lush green countryside and in a brief few minutes saw our destination clearly marked on a building "Suntory Yamazaki Distillery". We entered and discovered the next tour was half an hour away and that the tour was in Japanese. Fortunately my Japanese was basic enough to get by, my friend unfortunately was not so lucky - but he was not going to let that spoil his moment. We occupied ourselves inspecting aisles of displayed bottles of distillery samples from various ages and casks. An art in itself. Row upon row on multiple shelves of identical archival bottles filled with every imaginable natural colour that can be expected from whisky aging.

The tour commenced and we were fortunate enough to see, firstly, examples of casks and aged barrels of spirit marked by age. This was followed by the machinery responsible for the distillation process. We then entered the warehouse housing the casks. The smell in the air of the angel's share. Casks stacked with the year clearly marked on the barrel. I looked for the oldest cask I could spot and took its photo. The walk back to our starting point took us past the wonderful nature that surrounds the distillery.

We were advised there would be complimentary tastings to conclude the tour consisting of three expressions. Our anticipation grew. We found ourselves seated in a new room and whisky was quickly brought in and served to one and all. Curiously there was a new expression I'd never heard of before on tasting, Yamazaki Distiller’s Reserve. Since my friend and I where the only two foreigners on the tour, our guide unveiled her English and began to fuss over us. Making sure we knew what each expression was and asking if we'd like it neat, and then with a few drops of water and then with a lot of water. This was served with individually wrapped dark chocolate, one of which I still have today.

When the tasting concluded the young tour guide spoke to my friend and I retrospectively explained what we had seen on the tour. She spoke with pride as she discussed the history of the distillery and Japanese whisky. Our conversation continued into the gift store where I snagged a couple of lovely highball glasses. Concluding our conversation my friend and I returned to our starting point and where delighted to discover that we could sample anything from the bars wide range of Suntory Branded selections - including unreleased Yamazaki expressions. I chose a Yamazaki aged in an ex-Sherry cask and my friend an unreleased vintage Yamazaki.

The single malt is a combination of three vintages / cask types: a blending of three year old casks finished in ex-Bordeaux casks, ex-Sherry casks aged for approximately 20 years and Mizunara malt aged for 12 years and over. I am unsure of the percentage of contribution by each vintage/cask type.

Since that day I have tried Yamazaki Distiller’s Reserve four times. The second time from a 200mL bottle and the following two times from a 700ml bottle. This review is based on my tasting from the fourth tasting.

Nose: Strawberry, coconut, red fruits, plums, soft honey, Mizunara oak, gentle floral aroma

Taste: Coconut, cherries, apples, ginger, tannic

Finish: Short with a lot of complexity in the shortness, starting with spice, then cherries and a dry tannic and red wine on the tail

Consistency is at the core of this range. The master blender seems to have a perfectionists approach to ensuring the consistency of the whisky, as the experience is the same each time. Batch variation appears to be minimal.

A subtle 43% that goes down easy. A soft and gentle delivery yet remarkably complex in a short burst of a finish. It's difficult to find a specific note that dominates. Yet red fruits and tannic comes to mind first when I recall my tastings.

@Frost, thanks for your lavishly detailed narrative. I felt like I was right there on the distillery tour with you.

That is so interesting that, if I am reading it correctly, this Yamazaki Distiller's Reserve blends 3, 12, and 20 yo whiskies together. This seems like a good example of how useful weighted average age statements could be. Depending on proportions used, this could be a weighted age 4 year old whisky, or a weighted age 16 yo whisky. Still, even without knowing the details, it is interesting to know which whiskies went into it.

@Victor thank you for the feedback. The single malt is indeed made up of a blend of 3, 12, and 20 yr old whiskies together.

@maltmate302 - hopefully you'll write a review up of your bottle! I'd like to see your notes.


Yamazaki is a powerhouse of a distillery. Competing alongside Nikka for my affections it is routinely churning out brilliant expressions. The 12 and the 18 - both having secured cult status. The 25 that I have sitting on my shelf which I am saving for the most momentous of occasions.

Then there are the Hakushus coming out from the same gates. Saltier and more maritime in nature and equally good.

But what I love most is the air of intrigue and minimalistic sophistication Japanese whiskies bring with them. There is nothing which is too much or unnecessary. Nothing is loud or overbearing. Instead there is a controlled elegance to everything they represent.

While the Yamazaki Distillers Reserve may not be the best Yamazaki I have tasted it is quite decent in it's own right.

Expertly blended by Shinji Fukuyo, the fourth Chief Blender of Yamazaki, the Distillers Reserve is a mix of three unique casks; Wine, Sherry & Mizunara. And there seems to be something from each in the final spirit.

Nose: Malty. Butterscotch. Pepper. Dry fruit. Sugar frosting. A ton of pineapple. Jack fruit and papaya. All the tropical fruits in the world. The wine comes through in a fruity chardonnay with a hint of oak. Decently accomplished if not magnificent.

Palate: Very thin. Apples. Light honey. Mid-palate it becomes fruitier. It's the same tropical suspects. Bananas with the faintest of mangoes. Hints of oak. I think it's trying to be a Speysider but not really doing a good enough job of it.

Finish: Medium with a touch of spice. My least favorite part.

Look, I keep saying this one is far from magnificent but that doesn't mean it doesn't deserve a pour.

I was quite surprised by this one, too, Tabarak. For a NAS malt this is admirable work. It is mainly the finish that pulls this one down a bit, as the palate and especially the nose are very enticing. I wonder what you would say about the Hakushu expression that I found less inspiring. Finally, I liked your general comments about Japanese whiskies and wholeheartedly agree to them.

@Pierre_W I'm planning a Hakushu vertical soon - I've ordered some stock and waiting for it to arrive.

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