It’s been a while since I’ve reviewed a Japanese whisky. I went Islay mad for a bit, but this cheeky little Suntory Yamazaki Distiller’s Reserve caught my eye, because it was a mere £40. You rarely get Japanese whisky available at that price, so suffice to say it was in my cart as quick as a flash.
The Yamazaki Distiller’s Reserve has probably lived a better life than I have, and it’s an interesting blend of Yamazaki spirit. There’s “young talent” whisky, which has been matured in Bordeaux wine casks, alongside some Sherry casks whisky of around 20 years. It has also been blended with whisky from mizunara casks, which are made from Japanese oak – this wood has a very interesting effect on the whisky – bringing out all sorts of gentle coconut flavours. I always imagine Japanese distillers to be black-cloaked Zen masters of their art, and this sort of blending package does nothing to rob me of the image.
Colour: a sorted of muted tangerine, leaning towards gold. On the nose: juicy! Fragrant raspberries and strawberries rush to the centre, yet when you get past them there’s something very curious hidden away. It’s a creamy coconut sort of note at first, as the mizunara shows itself, with the and then it teases with something akin to a lovely bit of a brie at the back end of a perfumed room. It’s one of the most interesting drams I’ve nosed in a while. There’s more going on here, but between the fruit and coconut, you’ll need to spend a good few hours picking it apart.
In the mouth: oh yes, a lovely medium weight of fruit cascading down the tongue. Mouthwatering. All the summer fruit bushes that you could wish for. Cherries lead in for me, with a little redcurrant and blackcurrant. Peaches. A touch of grapefruit. Vanilla. Into the spices towards the end, but they’re ever so gentle – a little pepper, but not much; a waft of cinnamon, but not a lot.
This shows remarkable character and a whole bunch of interesting flavours. It’s marvellous stuff – just the thing if you’re a Speyside drinker looking to expand your horizons further. No single flavour dominates – as I’ve found so often with Japanese whisky, it’s the way it’s put together, the blending, that impresses me the most.
In short: absolutely brilliant. As I mentioned, the Suntory Yamazaki Distiller’s Reserve is a mere £40. That makes it the bargain of the year in my book.