Wednesday, March 24, 2010

My Affair with Suntory Yamazaki 12 yo

From my last review on Hibiki Suntory 17 years old, it leaves me craving for more Japanese single malts. It was really unexpected that after my Monday Evening at Changkat, I headed straight for dinner where my friends served me a bottle of Suntory Yamazaki 12 yo!

Yamazaki is the first Japanese distillery established 1923 by Shinjiro Torii, the founder of Suntory and the father of Japanese whisky, whom built Japan’s first malt whisky distillery in the Vale of Yamazaki. The distillery is situated in an area of dense bamboo grooves at the foot of Mt. Tennozan outside Kyoto, Japan’s ancient capital. Using copper pot stills, the Yamazaki distillery was the first of its kind outside of Scotland.

What makes Suntory Yamazaki single malts so appealing and impressive is credited to the fresh air and four simple ingredients: the finest malted barley, pure water, special yeast strains, and noble oak casks. These whisky are then aged in casks of three different kinds of oaks: American, Spanish and Japanese.

As quoted, "Suntory Whisky derives from the pure waters prized by Senno Rikyu, the creator of the Japanese tea ceremony”

My experience with Suntory Yamazaki is quite a physical affair. I always take the liberty to nose the whisky before I had the virgin sip. On the nose, you'll find honeyish and buttery aromas. It's quite a powerful embrace.

There are 3 ways to drink this : neat (straight from the bottle to the glass), on the rocks (adding cubes of ice) or mixing with water and ice (also known as "Mizuwari" in Japan). I suggest that it be served on the rocks because it does not dilute the whisky as much when you mix it with water and ice. Do you know that whisky tastes differently when some drops of water are added into it?

On the palate, it has a delicate, mellow taste with a lingering, woody, with a dry finish that is medium to long. This is one of them where the flavour of whisky transforms as water is added. After some ice drops, it makes the palate a bit more buttery and pleasantly bitter.

I would rate this as a soft, delicate and medium-bodied whisky which is smooth and easy to drink. It's my perfect antidote after a day of peaty whisky such as a Laphroaig or a Lagavulin. It's almost anatomical, and the drinking experience has always been immensely pleasurable and physically gratifying when I'm in great company coupled with good food and whisky.



I heard the 18 yo is even more superb. Gotta have that in my Dream Drink List.

30 comments:

ahhup said...

I had tried both the 12 and 18, with 18 more towards the nutty and chocolaty side.

Japanese whisky to me had a more delicate and elegant expression.

Still can't forget the Hokkaido pure malt, you can taste the creamy texture in the finish, one word, IMPRESSIVE!

CUMI & CIKI said...

the older the better :P heeh

uLi.佑莉 said...

Hehe...I don't really like the taste of Jap whisky...maybe I am not fan of liq le...but the bottle looks nice...

Huai Bin said...

I wanna tryyyyyyyyyy

FooDcrazEE said...

hmmm..... 1st time I heard of Japanese Oak . . .be good to try some. . .

suituapui said...

*Hiccup!!! None for me, thanks...

thule a.k.a leo said...

I have stopped drinking whisky ever since I stopped clubbing! With the exception of special occasions such as birthday or wedding dinner of course...

Anonymous said...

Pure water doesn't add any flavour or taste to whisky. Flavour and aroma is mostly from yeast and oak infusion. One can control the flavour intensity by filtering.

Another commercial?

eiling lim said...

Ahhup: Wow then I have to put the Hokkaido pure malt into my drink dream list! Yeah Jap tend to be more delicate and creamy.

C&C: Yep!

uLi: Oh you're not a fan of whisky. But I'm sure you'll learn to love it as time goes by.

Huai Bin: get one with your casino earnings!

Foodcrazee: Yup. It's good stuff.

STP: As always when it comes to alcohol!

Thule a.k.a leo: i drink whisky at any ocassion. Sometimes even at home to when my relatives is visiting.

Anon: As quoted "Water is first added to the barley to promote germination and then mixed with ground barley grist to create a mash. Water is also used later in the production process to dilute most whisky before maturation, and added once again before bottling.

Most distilleries use different water sources in the various steps, and this becomes a crucial part of the character of the end product." That's why highland scotch whisky credit their water source for the wonderful whisky they made.

BTW, this is not a commercial. The whisky was brought by a friend. It's my choice to note the special whisky that I've tried. Haven't you notice that I used to write about wines, whisky and alcohol?

Anonymous said...

Over 50% of whisky contents is water. Pure water is tasteless and odourless, can’t find how it can add flavour to whisky.

Don’t you find pure water, highland water, etc are all marketing gimmick?

eiling lim said...

Anon: Well, if you use water that contains certain taste, wouldn't it influence the taste of whisky too? If not, why would people use water like Fiji and Aqua Panna to mix with their whisky rather than using tap water or RO water? Then if water is not a big influence, how come beansprouts from Ipoh is better? I really don't know how true is this, but I do believe it has a certain degree of influence.

Anonymous said...

Since you have opportunity with whisky, suggest you to conduct a blind test; Mix whisky with Fiji, Aqua Panna, RO water, distilled water, ice water, boiled water, etc.

fans of whisky & water said...

Firstly...to Anon...why are you hiding. Give us a name.

It's unfortunate you are unable to differentiate the subtle differences especially in spring water. Adding soft still spring water can enhance the flavours and aroma of the whisky.

Perhaps you do have a good palate and just enjoy countering Eiling's thoughts.

Since you have raised the question on taste of water on its own or added with whisky, perhaps you should conduct your own taste test and learn something.

KY said...

they all tastes the same to me!

FooDcrazEE said...

we shd ask HB to get 2 frm his CASINO take and then we can all enjoy . . while u supply me with a good CIGAR. . .wo0t!

taufulou said...

never tried that before, don mind have a glass..:)

eiling lim said...

Anon: Ooh that's a good idea. Why don't you do it too and we can compare notes?

Fan of whisky & water: Thanks for the info. I shall go try to do a tasting on some water samples. It'll be interesting.

KY: Haha... :P

Foodcrazee: Yeah that's a good idea but HB might finish the 2 bottles by himself before we even have a second glass. No, you shall sponsor the cigars!

Taufulou: Haha... who's buying?

Anonymous said...

If you blind test various water as suggested by fans of whisky & water; you will be surprised with the result.

eiling lim said...

Anon: I shall try it. Soon I hope. Was so busy.

ahhup said...

wow, this adding water thing had definately stirred up something here!

well, if you talk about the influence of water in beer making, it's a known fact that hard or soft water will affect the end results in terms of flavour and aroma. This is why most of the famous brewery are very near to quality water source.

Then you might argue that, aren't we brewing Heineken or Guinness in Malaysia? Simple answer, this is what chemical engineer are paid for, brewery are able to mimic the water they first used to brew the beer using our tanah's water by filtration or adding mineral content to it

ahhup said...

for whisky making, we are taking about distillation, we are trying to extract "pure" alcohol from the wash, the influence of the wash to the alcohol is kept to the very minimal. However, from farming barley all the way to aging, man are still learning their effects on each other. For example, Glenmorangie Signet, is what distillery attempt to influence the end product from stages as early as the way the barley is malted.

so is what kind of water used in fermentaion stage add flavour to whisky? well, I would say is does have impact on it.

as for whether distillery promoting their water source as part of marketing gimmick, well, it's entirely up to you. It's perfectly fine to drink those cheap scotch that might blended out of whisky made of scotland's tap water if you can't taste the differences of them.

ahhup said...

adding water will defintely open up a whisky, this is to say affecting it's flavour and aroma, for sure. example, longer in the finish or nuttier on the palate.

what about the kind of water you use? well, it will for me, simply because of an Evian mineral water do taste different from normal boiled water to me. The high mineral content makes it taste saltier to me, so I can't see why adding boiled water or Evian to my glass of whisky will not have any different.

However, if you want to keep the external influence to the minimum, you might want to use water that taste as neutral as possible, distilled water or the FIJI may be?

ahhup said...

enjoying whisky is a very personal thing, it is still down to your taste buds. No point arguing about what kind of water to add, because end of the day, we all don't share the same taste buds, or do we?

if adding orange juice to a 1977 Macallan is as close to the nectar of the gods that you ever gonna get, then by all means but don't forget to treat me a dram, neat will do, thanks...

Anonymous said...

The function of distillation is to extract ‘pure’ alcohol, whatever not dissolved in alcohol is left behind include minerals. Hence, the extracted pure alcohol is net of water quality during fermentation.

Most if not all whisky, whether single malt or cheap blended is diluted with distilled water.

If one find high mineral content makes whisky taste saltier could mean tap water is hard.

If high mineral content in water make whisky less desirable, isn’t distilled or RO water is better than mineral water like Evian, Fiji?

eiling lim said...

Ahhup: Hey thanks for the lengthy explanation. Actually that's what I thought about the waters that would influence the taste of the whisky. However, whether it is proven to be true or not is very subjective as you have already said that it's up to the taste of individuals which I definitely agree. For me, I don't mind adding any sort of water but if i have a choice, I'll try to use neutral taste water such as Volcanic or Aqua Panna.

Anon: I can't answer you on that because again, it subjects to preferences of the tastebuds.

ahhup said...

Distillery will only take "the heart of the distillation", drinkable/usable spirit at 70% ABV which represent between 20-30 percent of the complete still run. so, there is some H2O in the content before they go into maturation, at least 20-30% of it. so "whatever not dissolved in alcohol is left behind include minerals" is not entirely true.

"Most if not all whisky, whether single malt or cheap blended is diluted with distilled water." - they should! because they want to keep the influence of the liquid added to as low as possible, distilled water is the closest you gonna get, BUT, still, this practice is very much depends on the distillery's tradition, which they defend on it.

"If high mineral content in water make whisky less desirable, isn’t distilled or RO water is better than mineral water like Evian, Fiji?" - well, for my case, I add evian and only evian, I don't play around with water, and I am trying to remain one element constant here, so that I can notice the changes between brands of SM.

ahhup said...

why some people like to use expensive mineral water in their dram is not hard to understand. Will you feel good to add cheap boiled water or distilled water into whisky which cost ~ 100 USD a bottle? the "feel good factor" is there.

if what I taste can overwrite everything, then I see no different having a good dram at the bus-stop during noon in Malaysia to a restaurant during evening in Clarke Quay.

the word BETTER should not be use here, leave the blind test to the scientist, or unless we can calibrate our taste buds to the same standard, else we are heading no where.

There is cheaper way to enjoy it and there is luxury way of doing it too. However, advise is most welcome.

Anonymous said...

The best can be the most simple e.g. distilled water. However, most people bought by marketing and permit perception to change their judgment.

Garrett said...

Suntory whiskey....my all-time fave! Even the humble Suntory Royal 12-year old is superb...much better than most established scotches in the market! I get mine in Japan everytime I visit...it's too damned expensive here in KL!

The Hokkaido pure malt mentioned here..is it by Nikka? Nikka is another great Japanese whiskey distiller, although I'm more biased towards Suntory.

eiling lim said...

Ahhup: I agree with your point. Just stick with one brand just so that you can notice the differences of the whisky. I should follow this and I think it makes sense.

Anon: If marketing doesn't play its role, we all would be out of jobs - especially me.

Garett: ooh.. can't answer you as I wouldn't know which would be better. This is just my 2nd bottle of Jap whisky and both of them are from Suntory. This bottle is around RM200-300.

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