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Friday, July 25, 2014

Single Malt Report: Yamazaki Bourbon Barrel 2012

Today's post comes to you one day late and 50% shorter due to Exhausted Parent Syndrome.  There will probably be a half-dozen typos two.

When Suntory produces Yamazaki's regular range, they use a number of different new makes distilled from the different shaped stills in the distillery.  Those different new makes go into three types of casks: ex-bourbon barrels, ex-sherry casks, and toasted Japanese Mizunara oak casks.  The three casks are in all of their regular range, though the Mizunara whiskys are used sparingly since the number of those casks are very limited.

In 2010, Yamazaki began releasing annual no-age statement versions of each cask "Bourbon Barrel", "Sherry Cask", and "Mizunara".  They also added a larger sized cask "Puncheon" to the NAS series.  In 2013, they added a "Heavily Peated" one to the group.

Though its price keeps rising, Yamazaki 12 year old is a whisky I recommend often, especially if one can find it for $50 or less (and good luck with that).  Outrageously rich considering its low ABV, Yamazaki 18 is one of my top ten favorite single malts.  To me the 12yo feels like there's more ex-bourbon in the mix, while my bottle of the 18yo seemed to be mostly sherry casks.  The new individual cask-type releases give drinkers -- with considerable funds at hand -- a chance to try the parts that make up the whole.  I would do obscene things for a bottle of the Mizunara, but I have a purchased sample of 2012's Bourbon Barrel for review here and that will do for now.  We'll save the conversation about obscene things for another day.

OwnershipSuntory Whisky
Age: ???, my guess is that it's younger than 10 years
Maturation: 180-liter former bourbon barrels
Country: Japan
Alcohol by Volume: 48%

The color is light gold.  The nose is oaky and fruity.  To expand: Toasted almonds in caramel sauce, then fresh apricots and white nectarines.  After a bit of an ethyl nip there's whole grain bread crust, rose blossoms, and a hint of sour milk.  Coming back to the oak again, it smells very fresh rather than charred.  Vanilla shows up in the palate, but it's more towards the back than the front.  Sometimes it reads more like frosting.  Then some white cake (or shortbread?) to go with the frosting.  Black peppercorns, bitter tea, honey, and the apricots make up the much of the rest.  It has a medium-sized finish Aside from the vanilla frosting, tree bark, and some citrus around the edges, there's still quite some yeast and grain.

Even though the nose reveals that this is some young stuff, it's actually very pleasant.  Even the sour milk moment, which may be interpreted as butyric, is okay (to me) because it's slightly reminiscent of the current Tobermory 10.  The palate is graceful considering the youth and the oak isn't too forceful.  I wouldn't say it's that challenging of a malt, but it's sturdy (the ABV helps) and a nice all-around drink.  I'd buy it at half its current price. ← Legally required price complaint

For two other opinions:
MAO reviews his bottle here.  We have similar notes regarding the oak, though overall he found more salt and spice than I.  (88 pts)
Serge reviews the 2011 version here and he finds it to be "fully oak driven".  (82 pts)

Availability - Europe and Asia
Pricing - $110-$150 before shipping
Rating - 86