Japanese Whisky Week – Day 7: Yamazaki 1984/2005 (56%, OB)

Wow, how quickly a week passes by. Already the last day of the Japanese Whisky Week. The last entry will be another Vintage Malt Yamazaki. This time a 1985. Will this be the best? But before I start reviewing this one, first a little comment.

This Japanese Whisky Week was a little ‘narrow’ All entries were from just three distilleries. Nikka’s Yoichi (in the Taketsuru’s) and Miyagikyo, and Suntory’s Yamazaki. But there is so much more. So please have a look at the others. Hanyu is great, so is Karuizawa, and many others, like the new Chichibu that already shows great potential. So enough material for another Japanese Whisky Week I would say.

By the way, not a lot of good pictures available, so the picture is for another Yamazaki from the same series, just from other distillation and bottling years. Sorry.

Color: Dark mahogany

Nose: Sherry, probably Oloroso. Dry, powdery and woody. Nice soapy smell, that adds to the elegance of it. Typical oak. Pencil shavings. Sugar candy. Paper as in old books. The nose is very balanced.

Taste: Sweet (at first) and spicy wood. Syrupy, thick, with cough syrup and black fruits. The initial sweetness soon gives way to oak. Burnt sugar with some mint. This isn’t 25yo yet, but it’s already on the brink. This is already pretty woody, and ageing this any longer ,would have made this extremely woody. Now it’s elegant and quite bitter, but a bitterness that can still be handled. There is also some Beer, or hoppy bitterness to this. Altogether half sweet. Burnt sugar and it has a woody, hoppy, bitter finish. The other Yamazaki Vintage Malt didn’t oxidize to well, but this one can handle air with ease.

This goes into Yamazaki 25yo territory, but it isn’t there, its definitively younger, a lot younger. I guess there are much older components that go into Yamazaki 25yo, than only 25yo casks. There you have old wood that isn’t present in this Vintage Cask.

I like it. It is sort of extreme, but for me the best of the Japanese Whisky Week. Still, it’s not for the faint at heart. All in all I have to say that all seven Whiskies were pretty good. Just have a look at the amount I scored 87 points. So this is the best, but with 89 points it’s barely the best. It seems that mean quality is high and therefore Japanese Whiskies, If you choose wisely, are very good. Recommended.

Points: 89

Japanese Whisky Week – Day 5: Yamazaki 1991/2005 (56%, OB)

Lets stay with Yamazaki and Suntory for a while and have a look at a more younger version that is bottled in the vintage malt series. I would guess that it is cask strength, but both versions, the 2004 and the 2005 are precisely 56%. Coincidence or design? The version reviewed here is the 1991 bottled in 2005. The picture below is for the 2004 version, but both look the same. Now we can finally see how a cask strength japanese whisky will be, since I always claimed Japanese whiskies do need their strength, since I feel the reduced versions strike me as watery.

Color: Gold

Nose: Peaty clay. Musty, but also fresh. Radiant wood. Rotting leaves. Just the right spices. Salty grass, dry grass (not hay). Bonfire, fresh smoke. Yes it’s fruity too. Peach. Candy like sour fruityness. Very special.

Taste: Spicy, smoky and half sweet. Hardly any upfront peat here, at least not as much as expected. Licorice with clay.Fruity, just more pineapple than peach. Also the grassy notes emerge here too. Otherwise it’s clean and not overly complex. Warming. Ah, there is the peat, it comes very late in the finish. Welcome. Just a tad of imbalance in the finish though. The sour elements are fighting the sweets and they don’t go together well, because of the peat. Not an elegant Yamazaki this is, more rough around the edges. Likeable, but has it’s flaws taste-wise.

This smells like a Brora! It’s unbelievable, but in Japan they know how to make a whisky that smells like a Brora now! Isn’t this a hidden secret! Keep this in mind when going into a blind tasting… Just two big let-downs. The taste is a simple Brora at best and they charge as much for these kinds of Yamazaki as they do for a Brora. Bummer! Still, well done Suntory.

Points: 87

Japanese Whisky Week – Day 4: Yamazaki 25yo (43%, OB, 75 cl)

Leaving Nikka for a while and now visiting Suntory’s Yamazaki. Yamazaki is the oldest working distillery of Japan being founded by Shinjiro Torii in 1923. It lies between Kyoto and Osaka. Shinjiro Torii also founded the Suntory company. As with Nikka founder Masataka Taketsuru, both men were pretty influential in the rise of Japanese whisky. Taketsuru also first worked for Torii as a distillery executive before embarking on his own adventures.

Color: Mahogany

Nose: Furniture wax and burnt sugar. Before I go on, I have to say it’s a very thick and rich smell. It’s barely recognizable as a whisky. It could have been rum, but also smells like a PX Sherry. A truckload of raisins and prunes. Cacao with oak, minty oak actually. Glue, sugar and gravy. Well this is a pretty complex Japanese whisky.

Taste: Very dry and oaky. Toast and a hint of soap. The soap returns in the texture that otherwise is pretty thin. Sherried. Seems old. Red & black fruits, mocha and coffee. Dry teeth. Unfortunately this has a short slightly burnt, oaky finish. In this case it’s probably a good thing it got reduced, because if this would have been 55% ABV or even higher, with all these thick aroma’s and all that oak, it probably would have been very hard to drink. It’s a syrup (just not in the texture).

To my amazement, this is almost sold out everywhere. Don’t they make this anymore? If you think this is just the next standard Yamazaki after the 12yo and the 25yo, think again. This is very pricey stuff. If you want it today, be prepared to part with 600 Euro’s (800 USD) at auctions or 800 Euro’s (1000 USD) from a store. Wow, what an experience. So if you can get a dram in a bar, please do, you’ll have to try this, if it’s only just once in your life.

Points: 88