Japanese Whisky Tasting

I don’t talk about it too much here but we do monthly whisky tastings at various locations in San Francisco.  The tastings are very informal and are meant to be more of a social dialogue versus a lecture or class.  After the first round of tasting, the event is basically self serve.  This some times results in the destruction of those attendees who’s self control escapes them.

For some time I had the idea of doing a Japanese whisky tasting.  Many people still do not know much about Japanese whisky and this issue is compounded by the fact that there isn’t a large amount of Japanese whiskies to be had in the US.  As fortune would have it, I was introduced to the west coast Yamazaki Ambassador, Neyah White, through one of our whisky buddies Evan.  After exchanging some emails we were able to hammer out a convenient date and location to have the tasting – which happened to be yesterday.

Neyah was generous enough to provide 6 different expressions.  This included 3 component whiskies that are not bottled or available for sale here.  The other 3 were expressions that we can purchase here:  Yamazaki 12, Yamazaki 18 and the Hibiki 12.  It was explained that the 3 component whiskies were all distilled at a similar time however, each one went into a different type of cask:  new American Oak, Mizunara (Japanese Oak) and Spanish Oak.  These are the components of both the Yamazaki 12 and 18 expressions.  The difference between the two, besides the age, is the ratio of each component whisky used.  It was a great learning experience to be able to taste the deconstructed ingredients of the recipes for the two standard releases.  After Neyah walked us through the 3 component whiskies we were free to sample the 3 distillery bottlings.

I, personally, am partial to the Yamazaki 12 as I like the fresh, spring crispness to it over the more sherry influenced Yamazaki 18.  The Hibiki 12 is also a great whisky, especially at the price point.  It is a blend of malts from Suntory’s Yamazaki, Hakushu and Chita (grain) distilleries.  What makes it unique though is the use of whisky that was aged partially in ume shu (plumb wine) casks.  It adds an interesting sweetness to the bouquet of flavors.  You should get out there and try these expressions if you haven’t yet.

In addition to these great whiskies, I brought along a couple of bottles that I had been stock piling at home.  What’s the point in having interesting/good whisky if you can’t share and drink it with others?  I brought with me a couple of other Suntory expressions:  Yamazaki 10 and a Hakushu 12.  Additionally, there was Nikka Pure Malt Black, Nikka Yoichi 10 Single Cask, Final Vintage of Hanyu 10 and Chichibu Newborn Double Matured.

We all learned a lot – and drank a lot – last night.  But more importantly a good time was had by all.  A huge thank you to Neyah for taking the time to join us!

5 Comments

Filed under Tastings

5 responses to “Japanese Whisky Tasting

  1. Looks like an absolutely fantastic meeting, Chris. Wish I could have joined you!

  2. Anthonu

    The barrel samples were a definite treat; the Hibiki 12 is a delight…a veritable Kamikaze of a whisky (it flies under your radar and leaves you bombed at 6 AM)…Yamazaki is timid but rife for an all evening drink for fireside chats and chess. Could do with more bite. Water increases the breadth but not really the bite. Neyah is a warrior and answered the most sophomoric of my questions, hats off to him!

  3. James K

    wow, sounds like some really interesting whiskies! i’d love to talk shop and share a dram or two since i live in the bay area. how can i find out about future meetings?

  4. Pingback: Suntory Yamazaki 12 « The WhiskyWall

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