Introductionapples and pears followed by vanilla oak smooth
Ok, if it’s not clear from the name that this Yamazaki 12 Single Malt Whisky isn’t technically scotch whisky, then perhaps my bad Haiku above gave it away. Tonight I’m drinking from a 50 ml miniature of this popular Japanese whisky, bottled at 43%. The Yamazaki distillery is owned by Suntory Limited, which has been around for a long time, but a lot of us Americans probably just became aware of this company via Lost in Translation with Bill Murray (YouTube video below). Interestingly, Morrison Bowmore (Bowmore, Auchentoshan, Glen Garioch) is a subsidiary of Suntory. Here in Arizona, this 12 year expression can be had for $40, vs. a large jump to $115 for their 18 year.
On the nose, my first impression was that this is light and fruity (apples). Then I spent some more time with it, and it seemed to gain a little richness (not a lot), with some vanilla that is probably coming out from the oak, and a hint of spiciness.
On the palate, I’m back to apple juice, but some undetermined spices are coming on. Heading into the finish, the spice clarifies a bit, turning into light pepper. This is fairly light on the palate, but it’s not watery. I’m glad it’s at 43%, not 40%. The finish is medium, with the fruity sweetness tapering off quickly, and the pepper lingering a little bit. I’m not getting any strange aftertastes or alcohol burn.
If you presented this to me in a blind tasting and said it was a “scotch”, I would have no doubt that it was from Speyside. Going from memory of the whiskies I’ve tried, the profile of this Yamazaki seems like a mix between The Glenlivet, and either Linkwood or Glenfiddich. I think I need to do a head-to-head with these sometime.
Conclusion – You’ve heard people refer to some whiskies as being “dangerously drinkable”? To me, this is one of those. Usually I make the most out of these 50 ml miniatures. I’ll go through them in a couple of 25 ml sessions…maybe even 3 servings if they’re cask strength. I plowed right through this one tonight. No, it’s not super complex, but I enjoyed sitting and nosing it (always a big plus), and it was sooo smooth and drinkable. Maybe it won’t impress your scotch aficionado buddies, but I say pick up a bottle and call it a guilty pleasure. I would also recommend serving this as an introductory single malt to friends who are nervous to get started with whisky. At $40, I’m going to be keeping a bottle of this in my cupboard, as I think this is a great value. Other Yamazaki expressions will also be on my radar now…I’m VERY interested in their peated expressions.
Other opinions and additional information
I haven’t yet taken to assigning “ratings” to the whiskies I write about in these posts. I mean, who the hell do I think I am, anyway? However, if I did give a review rating to Yamazaki 12, I think I would place it a few points above where a lot of these other folks put it. The common consensus seems to be that this is a perfectly “ok” whisky worth a very average rating. I can totally see that, but I’m awarding it a couple of “guilty pleasure” bonus points for sheer drinkability and the pleasant nose, moving it to slightly above average.
- Whisky Magazine (Issue 13) – Old ratings and notes from Michael Jackson and Jim Murray.
- Whisky Magazine (Issue 26) – Ratings and notes from Michael Jackson and Dave Broom from a few years ago.
- Whisky Magazine (Issue 56) – More recent ratings and notes from Martine Nouete and Dave Broom. Also some links to forum threads on this whisky…one of them particularly less positive than my view.
- Whisky Fun – Notes and rating (79) on a 2006 Japanese bottling.
- Nonjatta – Here is some information about the Yamazaki distillery from Nonjatta, a great web site dedicated to Japanese whiskies. Check out the Japanese distillery map link on the right side of the page…pretty cool.
- YouTube – Here’s Bill Murray’s Suntory commercial from Lost in Translation: