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Japanese Whisky

Yamazaki 12 Year Old Suntory Pure Malt Whisky




Whisky Review: Yamazaki 12 Year Old Suntory Pure Malt Whisky

Tasting Notes:

Possibly the first Japanese single malt whisky seriously marketed to a worldwide audience, the Yamazaki 12 Year Old was first available in 1984 – since then gaining a cult following.
Pale Amber
Quite a mixture here, plenty of fruits notably orange, apple, pineapple, and grapefruit are balanced against a woody, earthy root aspect. Throughout there’s a very aromatic grassy and well-defined floral note – reminds me of jasmine tea.
Very smooth drinking, light and slightly oily. Lots of tropical fruits, apricots, bananas, coconut, and pineapple. Hold on the tongue to get a hit of cinnamon spice.
Short to medium, there’s a hint of tropical fruit salad sweets and citrus zest, this doesn’t linger before quickly drying.
Very aromatic whisky, smooth and light with plenty of fruit notes. This Yamazaki 12-Year-Old is a great introduction to Japanese whisky. Arguably it’s probably close to a score of 7, but for me just falls short – I would probably increase for a slightly higher percentage bottling / or a less ‘blink and you’ll miss it finish’.
Yamazaki 12 Year Old Pure Malt Whisky

The Yamazaki 12 Year Old Suntory Pure Malt Whisky

Yamazaki Distillery, the oldest distillery in Japan, is almost synonymous with Japanese whisky. This is, in part, thanks to the popularity of the Yamazaki 12 Year Old, the longest-standing single malt expression in Yamazaki’s core range.

The Yamazaki 12 Year Old was first marketed in 1984. Prior to this, the distillery had been producing blended Japanese whisky. The effort was fronted by Keizo Saji, the son of Yamazaki‘s founder, Shinjiro Torii. Saji also designed the label for the Yamazaki 12 Year Old, which remains mostly unchanged today.

The 12 Year Old proved immensely popular and soon the distillery had expanded its capacity and begun releasing higher age statements. Today, Yamazaki’s core range includes an 18 year old and a 25 year old.

Despite Yamazaki’s rise in global popularity and price (and the noticeable decline in the presence of age statements for Japanese whisky) the Yamazaki 12 Year Old remains a steadfast presence in the brand’s core range.

This particular whisky was bottled prior to 2004, when the presence of the ‘Yamazaki’ name became more prominent on the label.

A Brief History of Yamazaki Distillery

The Yamazaki Distillery, Japan’s first and oldest whisky distillery, was founded in 1923 by Shinjiro Torii, the founder of Suntory. Located at the confluence of three rivers in Osaka Prefecture, this site was chosen for its exceptional water quality, a crucial element in whisky production. Inspired by traditional Scottish distilling techniques, Torii aimed to create a uniquely Japanese whisky that could rival the finest Scotch whiskies.

Yamazaki rapidly gained acclaim for its delicate, smooth, and complex single malts, which incorporate diverse local ingredients and meticulous craftsmanship. The distillery’s signature expression, Yamazaki Single Malt, showcases subtle fruity notes and a refined balance, earning global recognition. Notably, Yamazaki’s Sherry Cask 2013 was named the world’s best whisky in 2015, marking a significant milestone in Japan’s whisky industry and highlighting the distillery’s pioneering role in shaping the global perception of Japanese whisky.

In 2020, the Yamazaki 55 Year Old (the distillery’s oldest expression) broke records when it achieved a staggering hammer price of just under $800,000.

Mark Bostock

Since joining Mark Littler LTD as a freelance article contributor in 2019, Mark Bostock has become an integral part of our UK content writing team. His enthusiasm for whisky, particularly independent bottlings, drives him to deepen his knowledge through frequent attendance at tasting events and the thoughtful expansion of his own whisky collection. This dedication not only fuels his passion but also enriches his contributions to our platform, blending expertise with a genuine love for the subject.

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