Whisky Review: Yamazaki Tsukuriwake Selection Spanish Oak

, | March 8, 2023

Editor’s Note: This whisky was provided to us as a review sample by the party behind it. This in no way, per our editorial policies, influenced the final outcome of this review. It should also be noted that by clicking the buy link in this review our site receives a small referral payment which helps to support, but not influence, our editorial and other costs.

The House of Suntory introduced last year a Limited Edition series for their heralded Yamazaki Japanese Whisky. Touted as the Founding House of Japanese Whisky, Suntory is becoming a monolith in the whisky world. My first introduction to the brand happened while watching Lost in Translation when Bill Murray’s character says the famous line, “for relaxing times, make it Suntory times.” The bottle he is featuring is the now discontinued Suntory Hibiki 17 year.

Although Hibiki is potentially the more commonly known whisky by Suntory, the Yamazaki is potentially the more historically critical one for fans of Japanese Whisky.

Yamazaki Single Malt Whisky launched in 1984, although its roots date back to 1923 with Shinjiro Torii and Japan’s first malt distillery in Yamazaki, Shimamoto Mishima District, Osaka, Japan. Since its introduction, the Yamazaki Whisky has grown into an international favorite. In many states the 12-year-old has become allocated and no longer sits on shelves.

For myself, I am a fan of this whisky and find its flavor profile reminiscent of a fine Scotch, albeit accented with a greater floral profile. I am passingly familiar with most releases from Suntory. I will admit, outside of the Kacho Fugetsu (21 year Hibiki for reference), I am unfamiliar with the limited edition releases from Suntory.

House of Suntory, in explain the purpose behind this release, said “what excited me most about this launch is that just one year before the 100th anniversary of Suntory Whisky, we can finally share the full story behind our Tsukuriwake way of whisky making, which was born from the Founding House of Japanese Whisky,” says Suntory’s Fifth-Generation Chief Blender Shinji Fukuyo. “The 2022 Yamazaki Limited Edition Tsukuriwake Selection honors the fact that greatness comes from diversity. And in doing so, we unveil what truly makes Yamazaki Single Malt Whisky the authority of Japanese Whisky.”

Tsukuriwake means “artisanship through a diversity of making.” Japanese whisky is heralded for the absolute artistry their master blenders bring to Japanese Whisky. What may not be as appreciated is how thorough the distillery is when crafting the whiskey to be blended. The House of Suntory’s Tsukuriwake in Yamazaki prides itself in multiple types of non-peated and peated grain varieties, two types of wash backs, eight pairs with various pot stills and maturation in four different oak casks (French, Spanish, Japanese and American), with three cask size differences in American Oak.

This release has four different examples of the masterfully crafted whisky which is blended into the Yamazaki Single Malt we enjoy: Puncheon, Peated Malt, Spanish Oak, Mizunara.

We will focus on the Spanish Oak for the purposes of this review. Importing Spanish oak casks from the north of Spain, this cask is designed to impart a delicate richness to the whisky. The distillery uses Spanish Oak to develop a subtle acidity and fruity aroma to the profile of Yamazaki. Spanish Oak is a popular cask type in Irish whiskey, like Redbreast, and Scotches.

I was unable to identify if the casks for this project are re-used Sherry. However, the ex-sherry Spanish Oak casks that Suntory traditionally uses are hand selected by the Suntory family on a yearly trip to Spain. The trees air dry for three years, are coopered and then seasoned for another 3 years in Oloroso sherry until they are finally sent to Japan for use with their whisky.

The distillery describes this whisky as having a nose of dried raisins and prunes, with hints of sundried tomatoes. The palate is rich and decadent with subtle acidity, giving way to a buttery and lingering acidity with hints of bitterness.

This series represents a curious exploration into the component structure of what makes-up a bottle of Yamazaki. We know how good the sum of its parts is, but how good is each part? With that, we turn to the glass.

Yamazaki Tsukuriwake Selection Spanish Oak review

We review Yamazaki Tsukuriwake Selection Spanish Oak, part of a special Japanese whisky series from Suntory released last year. (image via Suntory)

Tasting Notes: Yamazaki Tsukuriwake Selection Spanish Oak

Vital Stats: The suggested retail price is $450, ABV of 48%.

Appearance: extremely dark, treacle, almost coffee colored.

Nose: extremely rich like mahogany, rich leather with soft port wine. It evolves into a lovely dessert, almost crème Brulé vanilla. Sweet with dark demerara sugar, red grapes, a balanced wine nose. This smells like a fine aged red wine.

Taste: First moments this tingles the tongue and lips. There is a light acidity, but overall rich wood, prunes, and dried grapes. As the whisky evolves into a semi-dark chocolate, buttery mouthfeel with touch of acid to it interesting. The finish really brings all the palate flavors into unison. There is a touch of bitterness with a wonderful profile before it fades. The finish ties all the loose ends together before disappearing.

Whisky Review: Yamazaki Tsukuriwake Selection Spanish Oak


I found the whisky to be a little more muted – this is also the only one that I couldn’t find while sipping a Yamazaki 12. The other three are distinctly present in the body of my Yamazaki 12, but this one was harder for me to pick out. So, I’m not positive how much of the profile this makes.

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Charles Steele

Charles Steele is a Portland area attorney, born and raised in the Pacific Northwest. His legal education affords him an analytical approach to understanding whiskey and other aged spirits. Traditionally a legal writer, freelancing for The Whiskey Wash will prove a unique opportunity to flex his writing skills. Although he...