Yamazaki & Hakushu Distiller's Reserve and 12 year old
Yamazaki Distiller's Reserve 43% abv
Nose: A luscious nose - strawberry preserve, fresh raspberry followed by peach and pear. There's sugar syrup and vanilla alongside lemon curd. Cinnamon and anise notes too.
Palate: Quite creamy with red stewed berries and apple and blackberry crumble. Cedar wood, honey and cinnamon. Some coconut and toasted nuts. The European oak makes its presence felt too.
Finish: Short to medium with vanilla, yuzu and sandalwood.
Score: 6 out of 10
Yamazaki 12 year old 43% abv
Nose: Another lively and luscious nose. Sweet fruit notes of peach, pear poached in dessert wine, tart apple, plums and persimmon. Floral honey, milk chocolate and cinnamon. Coconut flesh, malt and mizunara oak.
Palate: Again a lovely creamy mouthfeel - like homemade rice pudding with cinnamon and nutmeg. Honey, vanilla pods, melon, peach and that coconut again. Persimmon too. A spry kick of ginger ale and clove spice alongside some cocoa powder and toasted oak.
Finish: Medium length with tropical fruit notes, ginger, european oak spice and coconut macaroons.
Score: 7 out of 10 (at £22 a bottle probably a 9)
Hakushu Distiller's Reserve 43% abv
Nose: Fresh and fruity. Peach, nectarine, plum and lightly brewed green tea. Cucumber. Honey, lavender, pine and a freshly mown lawn. A very faint wisp of smoke along with oak and mild black pepper.
Palate: Light and approachable with a somewhat thin mouthfeel. Heather honey, tart citrus - lemon and grapefruit which leads to a definite smokiness. More pine before moving back to a fresh fruit salad. Some minty freshness too with mild pepper spice.
Finish: Short to medium length with a mix of citrus, orchard and tropical fruit with a sooty tang at the end.
Score: 6 out of 10
Hakushu 12 year old 43% abv
Nose: This has more presence than the Distiller's Reserve. Still fresh and clean but also feels richer. Again we have peach, plum and sweet tropical notes of pineapple and papaya along with citrus of lemon and grapefruit. Smoke is apparent but still a light touch but adds a nice earthiness. More pine forest notes and garden mint.
Palate: Still a thinnish mouthfeel but improved over the Distiller's Reserve. Quite a bit of sweetness - honeyed malt and barley sugar. Ripe peach, mango, kiwi and lychee. Some yuzu balances out the sweetness with pine resin, chamomile and toasted oak. A hint of minted chocolate towards the end.
Finish: Medium with tonka bean, yuzu and chamomile.
Score: 7 out of 10
Overall: All being said these were tasty drams especially at the prices I paid for them. Sadly the clamour for Japanese whisky means that their current pricing means that they wouldn't be on my radar and if I'd bought them at those prices they'd all have a point deducted.
The age statement versions definitely did show improvement over their NAS replacements, just having more body and a little more complexity. It's just a shame that they are priced out of the reach of so many now. At today's prices they all lose a point from the score.
These are fairly gentle drams and at todays prices there are plenty of options available in both Ireland and Scotland that would be much better value and offer similar profiles. Will we ever see Japanese whiskies return to somewhat normal pricing? That remains to be seen but until then I'll spend my money elsewhere.
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