...where distraction is the main attraction.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Single Malt Report: The Yamazaki 18 is not The Harlem Shake

In 1981, Al B, a fellow in Harlem, created a dance called The Harlem Shake.  The wiggling shimmying step became very popular in the urban hip hop dance scene over the next thirty years.  In 2012, a dubstep artist named Baauer released a track named "The Harlem Shake" that had very little to do with the actual dance.  The video for the song became a YouTube sensation.  A internet meme quickly followed it in which a single person does a random dance in the middle of a space and then is suddenly joined by dozens of additional dancers going crazy in the ensuing edits.  Like all internet memes, it will not end until it is embraced by celebrities, so (happily) the Manchester City soccer team, Jimmie Johnson's racing team, and The Miami Heat basketball team have all released videos of themselves dancing around.

None of these new videos have anything to do with the actual Harlem Shake dance (see video at the top of the post), but they all call themselves The Harlem Shake.

I have no stake in The Harlem Shake -- please, everyone keep dancing! -- but if everything is The Harlem Shake then nothing is The Harlem Shake.  Linguistic nihilism is fantastic when it is a purposeful act.  But this viral cognitive sloth strikes me as something similar to the rash of apostrophe's in the wrong place's.

I'm going to go drink some whisky, because The Yamazaki 18 is not The Harlem Shake.

When I first reported on The Yamazaki 18 last year, I'd discovered it was pretty special.  Over the next seven months, the angels took their share of the sense memory from me.  Simultaneously the whisky became more and more mythical in my mind.  It was all SUPERLATIVE SUPERLATIVES.

Rumor on the malt street says that the newest batch of Yamazaki 18 should be hitting the States this month.  I have been counting the days.  I have also been dreading the price.  The previous release went from $80 to $100 to $130 in two years.

I didn't think I could trust my memory and, since I really do not like to spend that sort of cash on one bottle, I had to revisit the whisky.  Cue one trip to the secret bar that serves Yamazaki 18 at the same price as Glenmorangie 10.  Whisky funneled from glass into sample bottle.  Sample bottle shuttled home.  Three weeks later, the whisky slips back into a (Glencairn) glass.  Report time.

OwnershipSuntory Whisky
Age: minimum 18 years
Maturation: Toasted American oak puncheons, European oak sherry butts, Mizunara puncheons
Country: Japan
Alcohol by Volume: 43%

The color is a reddened mahogany.  An enormous nose.  Dark chocolate, fresh ginger, old bourbon,
pecans, cashews, thick molasses, bread pudding with Yamazaki 12 sauce, nutty cookies, amaretto, caramel sauce, and spicy fruit compote.  The palate......please allow me to drift into allegory... I taste things I don't understand.  They blossom for a moment, then I lose them, like a dream in the morning.  Unknown fruits (tropical? Asian?).  Rich rums.  A strange sandy wood.  Lime to gin to anise.  Aromatic toffee.  Marzipan, maybe?  Stewed fruits on a rum ice cream.  That marizpan-ish character continues through the finish.  The notes linger here so maybe I can net a few.  Brandied cherries, citrus peel, and anise.  Very aromatic and mildly sweet.  A flower candy moment.  Apricot jam and fresh oranges.  Endless...


The question is, will the new batch be the same?  Because no matter how different it is from before, Suntory can still call it "The Yamazaki 18".  Much like The Harlem Shake.  Please don't let it be The Harlem Shake.

Availability - Scarce, for now
Pricing - $130-$150, for now [Ed. note: as of 1/1/14 its average price is $186]
Rating - 95


  1. Any plans to review a Karuizawa? K&L is probably the first American retailer to get a couple barrels and I ended up buying a 1999 bottle based on the history (considering the distillery is essentially a Japanese Port Ellen or Brora it was worth a blind buy).

    1. Congrats on grabbing one of those K&L Karuizawas! That was a real coup for the Davids. I am indeed planning on reviewing a Karuizawa, the sample sourcing search is well underway.

  2. Try the Yoichi 15. You will like it.

    1. Absolutely. Had a wee sip of it in August, was quickly seduced. I will research it further. Thanks!