For relaxing times make it Suntory time. With the Corona Virus being big news globally, the news has been telling us to stay physically healthy. Advice such as social distancing, getting enough sleep and not going out are the usual suggestions. But let’s not forget to take care of our mental health as well. So I hope everyone stays safe, healthy and has the luxury to relax in these trying times.

One of the reasons I wanted to write for Malt is to have an added motivation to go through my collection faster. I am a very slow drinker but I buy faster than I drink. So, I have a lot of open bottles waiting to be emptied. Metro Manila and the whole of Luzon is currently under enhanced community quarantine until April 14. Which means everyone not needed to work stays and works from home. People can only go out to buy food and medicine. This means I have a lot more time to write, drink and hopefully clear some space in my collection.

Ah, Yamazaki. Does this brand even need an introduction? Thanks to a certain whisky award everybody now knows the name. It’s been more than five years since that award came out and the majority of drinkers still want to get their hands on it.

I really don’t have anything “smart” to say for this review. Because what else is there to say about this brand? This is like Macallan where just speaking of the name or showing off a bottle will cause enough comotion to raise the dead.

Luckily, Japan is only about a 4-hour plane ride from Manila. So, I was able to help myself to as much Japanese whisky as I could until I could no longer get them at reasonable prices. These are what’s left of my shopping spree then.

Yamazaki 10 – review

Color: pale ale

On the nose: Lots of mellow dried fruits like apricots and apples at the front. Then, I get more fruity notes like grapes, prunes, raisins and oranges. At the back are hints of leather, tobacco, vanilla and cinnamon.

In the mouth: I taste leather, hints of sulfur followed by sultanas, fresh grapes, stewed apples and honey. There are hints of a cardboard box, more leather, vanilla, cinnamon and chocolate at the back. It ends with a sour fruity note. Just when I thought it was over, I got some more hints of oranges, kiwi and grapefruit.

Conclusions

This is still one of the best 40% abv single malts I’ve had. In a blind tasting, I’d think this was 43 or 46%. It’s not watery at all. The flavors take their time to greet you. There’s a coherence in the blending of flavors in this. It has enough body and lengthy finish to beat most of the big brands out in the market with slightly older age statements with slightly higher abv. It’s a shame Suntory discontinued this.

While it’s very pleasant, I think it’s a bit too one dimensional with the overbearing fruity flavors. The flavors don’t last too long also but that’s not surprising due to the age and ABV. Anyone who is into Speyside single malts will like this. I like that what you get on the nose is pretty much what you get in the mouth. While this whisky tastes like it was aged in ex-bourbon casks, I think there’s a little bit of sherry influence in there.

Score: 6/10

Yamazaki 12 – review

Colour: pale ale

On the nose: Lots of sweet and refreshing fruit but scents like apricots, plums, kiwi, sour apples, fuji apples, pears and a whiff of dark chocolate. I get hints of persimmon honey, cinnamon and honeydew after the fruit salad ballade. There’s this tangerine and melon air freshener note at the end to round it all off.

In the mouth: Mellow and pleasant sweet fruity notes that make me think of stewed apples, honeyed pears, persimmon, plums and with some sips, and engulfing dried apricot taste. Hints of maltiness, chocolate and coffee notes. A quick wave of sherry cask notes like sultanas, raisins, nuttiness and dark chocolate. More sour and stewed apples at the end.

Conclusions

This isn’t as fruity and sweet as the 10-year-old, which is a pleasant change. I get more sherry influence from this which I think contributes to the added complexity. One sip it’s all fruity then another sip the ex-bourbon flavors bring about some ex-sherry flavors. Like the 10-year-old, I like the coherence of flavors in this.

Having a picnic at a Japanese park or a garden during the spring is always the mental image I get from this. Drinking this is a very pleasant experience. Lots of refreshing fruit notes to enjoy under the shade of a tree.

Imagine there’s a street performance where the mask and attire of the performer changes color to signify the change in flavors. A yellow mask to signify the light fruity flavors. With the opening and closing of a traditional fan, the performer is wearing a yellow and red mask to signify the sherry flavors. The pleasant wind breezing through you as you smell the budding flowers and the picnic. But with more and more people touring around Japan and getting into Japanese whisky, the annoying overcrowdedness can make you forget the pleasantries of the experience.

This was very much a steal when it cost around ¥6000 back in 2015. With its current prices? No. Hate it or love it, you can’t deny Yamazaki 12 is good whisky.

Score: 7/10

Yamazaki 18 – review

Color: ruby.

On the nose: Stewed apples, pears, cherry concentrate juice, strawberries, blood orange, Fukujinzuke (red pickled daikon radish), cinnamon, vanilla, earthy honey, plums, prune juice, raisins and tangerines.

In the mouth: Strawberry and cherry jam, hints of sulfur, dark chocolate, prunes, raisins, dried apricot, stewed apples and pears and hints of dark chocolate. Some dried red fruits and chocolate-covered oranges.

Conclusions

A very easy sipping sherry forward single malt meant to cater to sherry bomb fans. I get why even non-whisky drinkers love this. This is a good whisky but a bit too boring. I like that what you are promised on the nose is what you get in the mouth but it’s all up front. After all the sherry notes you’re left with nothing. The body is present enough but it doesn’t linger after you sip it.

When I first had this 5 to 6 years ago, I expected more. Even now, I still expect more. I didn’t think this was worth the price 5 years ago. My opinion on that is much stronger now.

If Suntory really wants to make people crazy for this, why don’t they release a cask strength version? Screw how many bottles they can sell. Just see how far some of their blinkered fans are ready to go.

Score: 6/10

CategoriesJapanese
John
John

John is a cocktail and spirits enthusiast born and raised in Manila. His interest started with single malts in 2012, before he moved into rum and mezcal in search of malterntaitves – and a passion for travel then helped build his drinks collection.

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