Whisky Review: SMWS 120.8 Hakushu 白州 “A surge of sweet peat”

Style: Complex and Spicy

Roasted macadamia nuts closely trailed by clean forest fruits. Pine nuts lightly grilled by peat smoke. Sweetness gradually opens up as shy glazed pineapples and passionfruit lollies step in with light green herbs and clove oil. A touch of smoked mackerel from the back, all the layers nicely overlap and weaved together. Nice and complex.

More glazed tropical fruits and sharp peppermint hit at the same time. A thread of bonfire smoke in clean forest air and fuses with delicious fruity core. Green melon, pear, apricots and dried mango all thriving above a layer of feisty ginger-mint. Five spices oil, anise and shichimi. Hints of Japanese pickled cucumber and smoked honey ham towards the end.

More shichimi and red pepper dryness lingering with peated yellow fruits, papaya and dried mango with drops of floral and grassy essence.

A milestone bottle for me, as this is the very whisky which has opened my eyes to the importance of new make when cask influence does not dominate the proceedings. This dram shows the incredible complexity of Hakushu spirit – forest green notes with sweet fruits, refreshingly clean vibe with a touch of oily peat smoke, subtle saltiness, dry spices and even maritime influence at times. Some might find it too spicy (it is bottled at a staggering 63.1%) and the expression is not solid or straightforward enough, but it reminds me why I am passionate about whisky in the first place, the numerous combinations of flavours, all the nuances, different distillery characters… So much to taste, so much to explore in the world of whisky.

☆☆ [Highly Recommended]

[63.1% • 2014 Bottled • 2000 Distilled • Independent Bottling • Single Cask • Cask Strength • Non Coloured • Non Chill Filtered • Aged 13 Years • 250 Bottles • Matured in second-fill Hogshead • **]