Hailing from the oldest distillery in Japan, which was started over 90 years ago, Yamazaki has gained notable accolades as of late, receiving the coveted “Whisky of the Year” award in Jim Murray's Whisky Bible 2015 for their 2013 Single Malt Sherry Cask Whisky.
First introduced 1984, Yamazaki's 12 year old variety is casked with Spanish sherry in addition to ex-bourbon, and then also Japanese oak barrels. A whisky with character, this is one to definitely drink with an ice ball, to reduce dilution of its more subtle flavors.
Japan's whiskies tend to have a more pronounced wood flavor, much like American whiskey, due to weather that is more like that of Kentucky (e.g. hot summers and cold winters), which causes Japanese whisky to mature faster than that of Scotland (also, similar to American whiskey). Japan has been growing in popularity and now accounts for 5% of all global sales (about 1 in every 20 bottles sold is now Japanese whisky).
Aroma: Soft floral aroma, with a mild sweetness and faint root vegetable.
Taste: Very smooth on the palate, with a slight cinnamon/all-spice hint in front, followed by a tropical fruit and sweet dark rum with citrus and delicate floral flavors and a lingering dryness. The longer the ice ball sits, the sweeter it becomes.
Finish: Finishes medium with nut oils and fruit zest and woody pineapple.
Verdict: A very good whisky with medium-bodied flavor that evolves into a complex whisky, which somewhat resembles a Highland-style whisky, but definitely more complex in flavor. Definitely worth trying in the $50-ish price range. If you enjoy the unique characteristics of Japanese whisky, definitely also try the Suntory Hibiki 12 year old too. We will be reviewing it later this week.