I had the privilege and joy of attending a talk about the whiskies produced by the Japanese distilleries owned by Suntory.
In the past I’ve seen people turn their nose up at the idea of purchasing Japanese over Scotch. My advice to them then, and now, is you really can’t judge a book by its cover. A horrible cliché but it is so true.
Dr Koichi Inatomi, the senior advisor to Suntory, delivered a relaxed presentation covering the history of the company from its humble beginnings, founded in 1899 in by Shinjiro Rorii who opened a shop in Osaka producing and selling wine; the building of Yamazaki distillery in 1923 in the outskirts of Kyoto, first managed by Masataka Taketsuro who spent two years studying at the University of Glasgow and spending time in Elgin and Campbeltown perfecting the skill of whisky making. Hakushu was established in 1973, and today both distilleries are producing awaed winning whiskies.
So, what did we have…
Yamazaki 12-year-old, 43% – Very fresh, fruity and with a touch of caramel, pineapple and tropical fruit salad. It’s kind of like a soft and light Speyside.
Hakushu 12-year-old 43% – A tiny hint of smoke, sweet, pears, lemon sherbet and soft leather. It’s just as fruity as the Yamazaki but slightly more refined – lovely.
Yamazaki 18-year-old 43% – This is a slow sipper, it takes a long time for this very well integrated whisky to come out of the glass but it’s well worth the wait. Soft leather, orange sherbet, milk chocolate, light orange, struck match, butter, and citrus fruit.
Hakushu Heavy Peat 48% (25ppm) – There’s something very Islay-esque about this, a bit like Laphroaig with pear drops, apple turnover, cinnamon, soft peat, stewed strawberries, and a sweet smokey finish.