Dram Review: SMWS 119.13 Yamazaki 山崎 “Fathoms Deep”

[60.2%・11 Years Old・Distilled in 2003 ・ Bottled in 2014 ・SMWS Bottling・Single Cask Release of 149 Bottles]

Nose:

Bold brushes of wood varnish and buttery toffee. Cloves and butterfly cookies with orange essence oil appearing late together with white peaches and popcorn seasoned with a knob of burnt butter.

Palate & Finish:

Rich flowing vanilla with the Yamazaki soft fruits brilliantly blended in, the oak tingles with an added touch of citrus.

Sweetened whipped cream and English toffee linger on as the softness of peaches slowly peels off.

Thoughts:

At first the strength is a bit intimidating and I would have preferred this being bottled when the cask is a bit tamer, but on the palate it is a rather well done Yamazaki aged in a first full Bourbon barrel, they just seem to be able to get it right even if it isn’t quite ready just yet..

☆ [Recommended]

-Nicholas

Whisky Review: Yamazaki Aged 18 Years Limited Edition

Style: Woody and Red fruits

Nose:

Raspberry sorbet seeping into freshly sharpened, incensed sandalwood. Strawberry cream dazzles, orchard fruits, followed by a touch of Goji berries and peppermint to bring up the drier side. Vanilla barley pushing up from the back. White oak gradually takes over, finishes with a brush of honeycomb.

Palate:

The raspberry tartness is nicely polished and pieced into orchard fruitiness. The sweetness is loosely wrapped around the white oak core. Strawberry cream sweeps across, followed by five spices, vanilla barley and coconut shreds. Herbal overtone, sandalwood smoke and dust spiralling up, then mellowing down to a vanillic form, honey oat, finishes with a small serve of custard.

Finish:

Strawberry yoghurt, malt biscuits and black currants all served in a sandalwood bowl.

Thoughts:

A Yamazaki showing more of the (Mizunara?) wood facet, is there something to do with the extra wooden box packaging?! Supplemented with red fruits, the spirit remains a certain level of freshness and “lightness” which keeps the expression in a decent shape. Probably a tad oaky (or to be more precise, woody) for some, but if you dig oak/ probably Mizunara in this case, you will like this. 1 star but not a big one for me.

☆ [Recommended]

[43% • Original Bottling • Limited Edition • Circa 2016 Bottled • *-]

Esmond

Dram Review: The Owner’s Cask Yamazaki 2000 Bar Cafe Ciroru Tokyo Numabukura Cask EU 70121

[55.0%・10 Years Old・Distilled in 2000・Bottled in 2010・Official Bottling・Cask No. EU 70121・Single Cask Release]

Nose:

Golden honey and barley with a gentle lace of smoke coming through.  There is also a hint of white tea that calms the attractive citrus fruits.  Structured and balanced with a brush of anise as the maritime smoke grows stronger.

Palate & Finish:

Sweet condensed honey with some light pear infusion, followed by the caramel custard creaminess in strength.  The concentrated honey note is akin to the honey flavoured Japanese mouth ulcer medicine for children.  And underneath that full bodied layer of sweetness lies an even layering of spirit fruitiness and maritime smoke.

A lick of wood spices leading to the gradual surfacing of the smoke on the back end, spirited, lengthy and full volumed.

Thoughts:

What a brilliant smoky Yamazaki.

The fact that this is quite young has absolutely no bearing on how matured and balanced the cask has developed into.

The world needs more philanthropists to bottle these Yamazaki single casks..

☆☆ [Highly Recommended]

-Nicholas

Dram Review: The Owner’s Cask Yamazaki 1994 Futakata Cask 4Q70069

[59.0%・11 Years Old・Distilled in 1994・Bottled in 2005・Official Bottling・Cask No. 4Q70069・Single Cask Release]

Nose:

Bold ripe fruits, freshly brewed tea and rich mahogany.  Guava and Vienna almonds laced with a underlying brush of coconut cream in due time.

Palate & Finish:

Rich, indulgent sweetness with just a hint of lemon twist.  Full and round mouthfeel with the barrel creaminess coating the tongue, a hint of caramelised banana mush with some wee hay and earthy notes on the back end.

The finishing grows softer but is long-lasting, still it carries a hint of banana essence with a mild floral note.

Thoughts:

Aye, this is why I love sampling these Owner’s Casks, they always provide different glimpses to what Yamazaki is capable of outside of its core range; and this one just feels more full, and is very much a bliss.

☆ [Recommended]

-Nicholas

Dram Review: Yamazaki Mizunara Japanese Oak Cask Aged 18 Years 2017 Edition

[48.0%・18 Years Old・Bottled in 2017・Official Bottling・Limited Release]

Nose:

The nose is fairly understated and reserved here, which in a way highlights the spectrum of flavours and how evenly they are arranged.  Coconut chips, pear puree and subtle cherry preserves stacking neatly against each other like kissing buttons on the cuffs of a well measured suit.  Soft white fruits chosen as a contrast to the uniqueness of the mizunara woodiness; traces of  thinning solvent, cinnamon powder and aloe vera syrup.  Needless to say, it’s rounded and delicate, but it feels more like a sub 45% rather than a 48%.

Palate & Finish:

A brush of light creaminess with the sweet cherries brightens up the tone.  The main delivery is smooth but uncharacteristically short, complimented by subtle fragrances and soft spices, with traces of dried orange, sultana and oak diligently laced through out.

Finishes with a hint of buttery croissants and a gentle brush of tannins, with the oak re-entering the scene late, fading out but leaving an assertive and drying impression.

Thoughts:

Ultra refined and sophisticated, even the non-believers would begrudgingly admit that the Suntory team did a masterful job marrying the casks for this release.

It’s not as expressive as previous releases but if you are well versed in Suntory’s philosophy, the subservient profile will hit you profoundly.

I thought of my SBGA011 when I was contemplating how to pen my thoughts on this dram.  The meticulously polished hour markers would catch the faintest ray of light and and give off the most satisfying reflection whilst the blue second hand glides over seamlessly.  I am mindful that the bulk population of the world probably thinks each and every Grand Seiko is more or less the same and I do admit at times I wish they would release something absolutely revolutionary; but just like this Yamazaki release, I enjoy the Snowflake immensely because of the sum of its every excellence..

Thank you Mr. Miyamoto and Mr. Woolley for running us through the release and thank you Ghe Blend and Liquid Ideas for organising the launch.

-Nicholas

Dram Review: Yamazaki Mizunara Japanese Oak Cask Bottled in 2013

[48.0%・NAS・Bottled in 2013・Official Bottling・Limited Release]

Nose:

A certain je nais sais quoi with how lovely the mizunara is laid out, absolutely mesmerising.  The top notes are refreshing with delicate jammy notes and subtle hints of coconut chips and marzipan.  The unfolding of the oak is alluring, layers peeling off to reveal hints of tobacco and sweet vanilla cream.

Palate & Finish:

The palate opens with plenty of citrus, mangos and apricots with a white tea acidity before settling into the creamy caramel note.  The oaky element follows on and becomes quite prominent; spicy, drying and slightly bitter.

A mellow and lasting finish with hints of citrus notes and light sparkles of youthful spices.

Thoughts:

A charming number that is cleverly put together.  The nose is particularly expressive and wonderful.  It is hard not to fall in love with mizunara matured whiskies after this dram..

☆ [Recommended]

-Nicholas

Dram Review: Tokyo International Bar Show Whisky Live Tokyo 2013 Yamazaki Mizunara

[50.0%・NAS・Bottled in 2013・Official Bottling・Limited Release of 547 Bottles]

Nose:

The nose is filled with that old-timey, diligently polished wood note common in Japanese shrines and mizunara matured whiskies; within the wood exists hints of muscovado sugar and pepper.  Pine wood and a slight incense smoke give a calming touch, with maple syrup and a wee smoky barbecue note in time.

Palate & Finish:

Brown sugar and floral honey on the palate with a burst of sichimi spices.  The floral note now opens up with a touch of beeswax and the nectar melting on the tip of the tongue, it’s rich with a nuttiness to go with it.

A fragrant finish with the oak characters quite evident, a touch of earthy espresso with a sprinkle of cinnamon powder before the wood influenced bitterness eventually taking over.

Thoughts:

A well considered dram that tries very hard to contain the spices, relying on the complex flavours that are dexterously put together to draw the attention away from the spices but the delivery is ultimately let down by the finishing which comes across as a tad drying..

Nicholas

Whisky Review: SMWS 119.14 山崎 Yamazaki “Raspberry imperial stout”

Style: Sherry and Sweet

Nose:
Intoxicating aroma of raspberry-strawberry cake on the nose. Strawberry pop tart gunned down by white pepper and wood spice. Forest berries jam gradually opens up to more sherry goodness. Dig deeper we have dunnage duskiness, strawberries in the field, beetroot with a herbal touch.

Palate:
Strawberry malt cake swooping in while a spectrum of red fruits displaying on the palate. Cherry-coffee jelly, massive dark chocolate, soy, black liquorice, forest berries, sultanas rolling lazily with a lot of juiciness. White wood spice instilling a unique freshness within. Black pepper shooting through, brown sugar melting on toasted almond. Ticking all the boxes for a young sherry cask. Copper and herbal overtone combines with the spices hitting a high note at the back. Spearmint finish.

Finish:
Assorted sherry notes staying on, fragrant berries jam, liquorice, red fruits and earthy spices. Sweet and Calm.

Thoughts:
This baby is matured in first fill Bota Corta Spanish oak Sherry cask for 11 years, it is young, but it has everything you can dream of for a sherry bomb. I remember someone labelling this a one-dimensional dram when we first tasted this a couple of years ago. Well, to be fair it is heavily sherried so that’s the theme, but there is more to it. Also, what’s is wrong with that when it is soooo deliciously made? Jammy, extravagant red fruits, lip-smacking malt. One of the best Japanese whiskies in my book.

☆☆ [Highly Recommended]

[53.9% • 2014 Bottled • 2003 Distilled • Independent Bottling • Single Cask • Cask Strength • Non Coloured • Non Chill Filtered • 538 Bottles • Aged 11 Years • Matured in first-fill Bota Corta Sherry Cask • **+]

-Esmond

Whisky Review: Yamazaki Aged 12 Years

Style: Sweet and Fruity

Nose:
Velvety, fresh fruits sided with deep, fragrant oak spices and white pepper. Orange and cherry gummies, vanilla and a touch of red licorice. Gentle spices winking, warm, refreshing and balanced aroma.

Palate:
Deliciously sweet, ripe orange and peach sharpened by dry pepper spices and wood fragrance. Flavour contracts in the middle as zesty edge exposed. White oak, sandalwood – cigar smoke undertone at the back. Finishes with light honey, refined malt syrup, a light red fruits tail.

Finish:
Soft cherry wine garnished with orange zest. Molasses crossing path with vanillic wood. Reminiscence of peppercorns. Pretty nice.

Thoughts:
Sweet whisky with magnificent composure. Almost everyone in town is crazy about Japanese whisky. While the overblown craziness is mostly down to hype but part of it is true – the quality is there. The smoothness of spirit, splendid complexity and balance, the finesse of flavours is incredible. This whisky gives us a good glimpse of the class of Yamazaki.

☆ [Recommended]

[43% • Original Bottling • General Release • *]

-Esmond

Dram Review: Yamazaki Bourbon Barrel Bottled in 2013

[48.2%・Bottled in 2013・NAS・Original Bottling・Limited Release]

As Bar White Oak drew to a close, it’s perhaps time to look back with fondness on the dearly departed collective.


There is a generation of whisky lovers out there, myself included, who missed out on Japanese whiskies when they were regarded as bang-for-the-buck offerings that kept punching above their weights. I am not familiar with that period but I have been told time and again that there was indeed such a time.. and Bar White Oak was like a time machine that transported many of us back to that era.

And so even though we all fully understood that Bar White Oak was never meant to stay on, our hearts grew heavy and we regretted not spending more time there. However, as a whisky fan, the inherent finiteness of great whiskies is not a foreign notion and one quickly learns to embrace and celebrate the sad but beautiful nature of things.

One of the bottlings that’s worth celebrating for is the Yamazaki Bourbon Barrel (bottled in 2013). My previous encounter with this whisky consisted of me sniffing the long emptied bottle. It was a captivating nose, the rich body conveys so much satisfaction that gave me a sense of euphoria akin to what Richard Hammond must have felt when he stomped his foot on the pedal of the 1963 Opel Kadett.. and so it was a treat to finally getting acquainted to it.

Nose:

On the nose there is this satisfying char, a good presence of vanilla and tropical fruits blended harmoniously together. It’s thick with the luscious barley influence coming through. Mangoes and passion fruits dressed with condensed milk.

Palate & Finish:

Sweet dreamy vanilla note on the palate, well infused with the summery fruits. A sublime delivery with this sugar-cured pineapple note coming on. Playful, attractive vibes that make the dram oh so delicious.

The wood vaguely touches upon the delightfully summery nature of this whisky in the finish, like sparks that make the dram shine brighter..

☆ [Recommended]

Thank you guys for granting us the chances to sample whiskies we would otherwise miss out on! It’s been a privilege!

P.S: All the best Yao and Kevin in your future endeavours! Thanks for looking after me!

-Nicholas