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Japanese delights: Tasting Suntory Yamazaki, Hakushu, Hibiki and Nikka Taketsuru

By Miguel in Tasting , Featured , Nikka , Suntory , Yamazaki , Hakushu , Hibiki

After all the buzz with Whisky Show 2012, I was desperately in need of more good whisky. I have sorted all my samples in a very nice way, which allows me to grab all of them easily for vertical tastings.

Yeah, very nice, but when you just want to have a few drams it doesn’t look such a good decision. I have still to think about how to sort them in a better way. ( Any ideas btw? )

I have take thirteen japanese single malts and blended whiskies to taste. They have been there in a box around three months for me to find a few spare hours to taste them. Well, today is the day!.

suntory-yamazaki-nikka-taketsuru-tasting-whisky

On the first round, I do a line-up of six whiskies. They are four Suntory: Yamazaki 12 years old, Yamazaki 18 years old, Hakushu 12 years old and Hibiki 17 years old ( By the way, any idea from whom does Suntory get grain whisky? ) and also two Nikka Taketsuru 12 and 21 years old.

Looks like it is a promising evening ahead.

Suntory whiskies

Suntory Yamazaki 12 years old

“Awesome japanese whisky on the budget range. Really love how complex it is and its fruity character. There are not many Scotch whiskies so good at this price”

91
Suntory Yamazaki 12 year
'A pioneering malt in Japan, for which Suntory deserve great credit. In its early days, it was rounded and delicate...now it is more intense, confident and elegant. 8/10' Michael Jackson, Whisky Magazine, Oct 2002

This dram has a amber-like color.

Nose (91): strong. honey, floral, wood, fruity, pears, spices, cinnamon, vanilla. Simply amazing! It's hard to believe it is only 12 years old.

Palate (91): powerful, oily. honey, spices, vanilla, wood, cinnamon, cocoa, pepper.

Finish (90): longer than average. honey, floral, wood.

So based on other whiskies I have already tasted I rate this Suntory Yamazaki 12 year with 91 points over 100.

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Suntory Yamazaki 18 years old

“Superb sherried stuff. Perfect cask with a delightful note of sulphur, and no, I am not drunk! I love this whisky!”

91
Suntory Yamazaki 18 year
A wonderful example of what Japanese whisky is capable of. We absolutely love this. Extremely smooth, with great complexity and a lovely balance of fruit, silky malt and a touch of smoke.

This dram has a cooper-like color.

Nose (91): more than average. nuts, honey, varnish, citrus, floral. Stunning nose! A legendary sherry monster!

Palate (91): powerful, oily. honey, nuts, a little sulphur, leather, citrus, wood, floral. In this whisky the sulphur note is even a positive thing. I like how it works there.

Finish (91): longer than average. honey, nuts, pepper.

So based on other whiskies I have already tasted I rate this Suntory Yamazaki 18 year with 91 points over 100.

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Suntory Hakushu 12 years old

“Nice but a hell more subtle than Yamazaki. Although Hakushu single malt is supposed to be peated I get no peat on this one”

89
Hakushu 12 year
A perennial favourite and a must-try for anyone interested in discovering Japanese whisky. Hakushu is owned by Suntory, founders of the first Japanese distillery, Yamazaki. The original Hakushu distillery was built in 1973, with another distillery building called Hakushu Higashi (west) added in 1981.

This dram has a gold-like color.

Nose (89): more than average. honey, floral, citrus, peat, wax. Interesting but more subtle than Yamazaki.

Palate (89): powerful, oily. honey, floral, wood, spices, pepper, vanilla, smoke, citrus. Nice. Really complex taste.

Finish (89): longer than average. honey, citrus.

So based on other whiskies I have already tasted I rate this Hakushu 12 year with 89 points over 100.

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Suntory Hibiki 17 years old

“Mindblowing Japanese blended whisky! I wasn't ready for something so good. Ordering right now”

91
Suntory Hibiki 17 year
A fantastic Japanese blend, made with aged malt and grain whiskies from Suntory's three distilleries. Spicy and sophisticated, this is great for catching people out at blind tastings. Recently awarded a Gold 'Editor's Choice' award from Whisky Magazine and picked up the top prize in its category at the World Whisky Awards 2010

This dram has a cooper-like color.

Nose (91): more than average. honey, vanilla, citrus, cinnamon, spices, wax, fruity. Lots of Yamakazi single malt on this whisky.

Palate (91): powerful. honey, fruity, nuts, leather, citrus, pears, vanilla, cinnamon, wood. Delicious

Finish (90): longer than average. honey, nuts, citrus, peat.

So based on other whiskies I have already tasted I rate this Suntory Hibiki 17 year with 91 points over 100.

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Nikka Blended Malts

Nikka Taketsuru 12 years old

“Fruity nose and a floral dry palate on this Taketsuru 12 years old by Nikka”

89
Nikka Taketsuru 12 year
A new (to us) blended malt from the Nikka family, Nikka Taketsuru is named after Masataka Taketsuru, who founded the company in 1934.

This dram has a amber-like color.

Nose (90): more than average. honey, vanilla, citrus, fruits, pears, mango, apples, pepper.

Palate (88): dry, oily. honey, floral, citrus, flowers, liquorice, pepper, wood. Very floral and slightly dry towards the end.

Finish (88): average. honey, smoke, citrus.

So based on other whiskies I have already tasted I rate this Nikka Taketsuru 12 year with 89 points over 100.

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Nikka Taketsuru 21 years old

“Superb stuff by Nikka! This Taketsuru made with whiskies from Yoichi and Miyagikyo is really delicious ”

90
Nikka Taketsuru 21 year
February 2010 marked an extraordinary achievement for Nikka, as their Taketsuru 21yo scooped the title of 'World's Best Blended Malt Whisky' at the World Whiskies Awards for the third time in four years. Bravo, Nikka!

This dram has a cooper-like color.

Nose (91): more than average. honey, smoke, spices, cinnamon, nuts, chocolate, citrus, mango. This is a really nice nose!

Palate (90): powerful, oily. honey, smoke, spices, peat, citrus, vanilla, cocoa.

Finish (90): longer than average. honey, nuts, peat.

So based on other whiskies I have already tasted I rate this Nikka Taketsuru 21 year with 90 points over 100.

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Miguel says…

They are all great drams. Between 12 years old and 18 years old Yamazaki you have two fantastics whiskies. The younger with lots of spices and vanilla and the older as a awesome example of Japanese sherried monsters.
Hibiki has inside a good amount of Yamazaki whisky. Simply delicious!.

Nikka whiskies are also great but the 12 years old Taketsuru is slightly less satisfying than Taketsuru 21 years old. A marvellous whisky crafted using Yoichi, Miyagikyo and the coffeey still Nikka owns. All in-house made. Lovely.

If you ask me about my favorite, it will depend on the day, but if price matters ( and always does ) I would stick to Yamazaki 12 years old or Hibiki 17 years old.



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