Sunday, January 23, 2011

Global Tippler – Japanese Whisky

It's 1923 and Shinjiro Torii built the first single malt distillery (Suntory) in the river valley of Yamazaki in Kyoto Japan. This was a unique undertaking as this was the first distillery of its kind outside of Scotland. Using copper pot stills, Torii would have been pleased to know that his whisky would years later be recognized worldwide for its quality and uniqueness. Torii hired Masataka Taketsuru as his first Master Distiller who came to Suntory having learned whisky making skills in Scotland.

Surprisingly, Japan in the second largest producer of Single Malt Whiskey next to Scotland. There are about 10 distilleries in Japan today producing some outstanding examples of various whisky. Besides Yamazaki, a couple other are Yoichi, Hakushu, Nishinomiya, White Oak, and Miyagikyou. There are also a number of fabulous blends that come from various distilleries and companies that produce their own label.

The Yamazaki 12 year Single Malt Whisky comes in an attractive bottle with a screw top lid. The label looks like parchment with brown or dark red lettering.

I was excited to see my state's ABC begin carrying Japanese Whisky so I had to stop and pick up the Yamazaki 12 year, which was on sale for $42. A good price but I had yet to open and try it so my anticipation was running high. This is a medium bodied whisky, very honeyed on the palate with just a hint of peat and smoke on the finish. You all know I love bourbon, but this one really blew me away. It's an exceptional whisky for the money and one that I will keep on the bar or bunker on a regular basis. My curiosity is now piqued and I'll be looking for other Japanese expression throughout this year. My sister in law is travelling to Japan this spring so she'll be departing with shopping list in hand.

Oishii is Japanese for delicious.

Color: Looks like dirty water. Not an attractive color

Nose: Sweet honey and mild peat

Entry: Very nice sweet entry, medium body. I pick up honey and summer fruit about mid palate. Nice balance of oak

Finish: Moderate finish ending in oak and peat; subtle flavors that fades.

As my first Japanese whisky, I'm very impressed. If you're looking for something as an entry Japanese whisky, this is one I would recommend. I'll caveat and say this is the only one I have experience with but this whisky is nicely balanced, great flavor and an overall appealing experience. A good buy for your first Japanese whisky.

Name: The Yamazaki Single Malt Whisky

Distiller: Yamazaki Distillery

Availability: Good

Price: Moderate, $45

Size: 750ml bottle with a twist off cap

Next stop…….home for a bourbon nightcap. Cheers.

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