Thursday, November 21, 2013

Whisky Hills: Hakushu 25 and Yamazaki 25

Post by Stefan Van Eycken, Tokyo
© Stefan Van Eycken
Today, we’re re-visiting the top end of the Suntory single malt range, but the first part of the title is more than just a metaphor. Until Christmas Day, Suntory is turning Roppongi Hills (in Tokyo) into Whisky Hills. There’s all kinds of whisky-related shenanigans going on. It’s great fun, prices are incredibly reasonable (as they should be, this being a PR event after all), but what’s more: it’s the perfect place to take your significant other, especially if he/she couldn't care less about whisky. Check out the site and you’ll see what I mean.
© Stefan Van Eycken
© Stefan Van Eycken
We didn’t spot the Hakushu 25 and Yamazaki 25 (which – if you can find them at a liquor retailer – will set you back 100,000 yen a bottle) at Whisky Hills in Roppongi, but that’s all the more reason to feature them here. There’s a bit of batch variation, as you may know, so just for the record: the ones we tried were the most recent bottlings.
Hakushu 25 (43% abv)

On the nose, the initial impressions are houzuki winter cherry, persimmons, rhubarb jam and prosciutto with honeydew melon. All of these in a furniture shop. After a while, you get chinsuko cookies and a bit of thyme. Water brings out a distinct apple hi-chu note. On the palate, it’s a feast of rice pudding, fruit yoghurt, candied apple and lemon peel, with a hint of ginnan (gingko seeds) – everything so beautifully combined. The finish is long and lingering on fruit (sweet citrus) with a touch of smoked ham… maybe a bit of duck à l’orange.

Yamazaki 25 (43% abv)

Only ex-sherry, Spanish oak is used for this expression. Well, there’s ex-sherry wood and there’s ex-sherry wood, of course, so that doesn’t really explain why this is a small miracle in a glass. And it is. On the nose, you get raisin juice, figs, thick strawberry jam, black plum stew, stewed peaches, mulled wine, cocoa, borscht (with loads of Worcester sauce and soy sauce) and jamon iberico. There’s also hints of toasted macadamia nuts, old leather-bound books and bit of tarragon. What a fantastic nose: super lush yet superbly balanced.

On the palate, it delivers truckloads of dried fruits, blueberry jam, blood sausages with cherry sauce, Seville oranges, dark chocolate with a bit of chili pepper, almond butter, cinnamon and clove as well as some slight tannins (but more subtle than with some batches I’ve had in the past). This really is well-nigh perfect. The finish is extremely long and mouth-coating, with a bit more wood coming through but nothing beyond the pale.

Again, some people have been a bit disappointed by the overly loud oak in some previous batches. There’s none of that here. This truly is a hedonist’s wet dream.

You can argue about the price. Is it worth 100,000 yen? As always, the answer is: it depends…

No comments: