From left: Suntory Hibiki; Nikka Yoichi; Nikka Taketsuru. Photographs by Ian Castañares
Food & Drink Features

Here are a few of Japan’s accomplished, deluxe whisky brands

Tasting notes on five of the finest whiskies from the most renowned Japanese distilleries.
Jay Labrador | Jun 04 2019

Suntory Yamazaki 

12 Years Old Single Malt

Pale green/gold. On the nose: light smoke, sweet spice, and some floral notes. On the palate: citrus, stone, mineral, cereal. Lightish. Long, slightly bitter finish. Awarded Gold in the International Spirits Challenge 2003 and 2010, awarded Double Gold in the San Francisco World Spirits Competition 2009 and 2013, and awarded Gold (Best in Class) in the International World Spirits Competition 2011.

 

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Suntory Hakushu 

12 Years Old Single Malt

Pale green/gold but slightly deeper than the Yamazaki. Woody, peat smoke on the nose. Assertive, medium bodied. Orchard fruit and cereal on the palate. Heather notes. Good length. Awarded Gold (Best in Class) in the International World Spirits Competition 2009 and 2010, awarded Double Gold in the San Francisco World Spirits Competition 2011 and 2013, awarded Gold in the same competition 2012, and awarded Gold in the International Spirits Challenge 2012.

 

Suntory Hibiki 

21 Years Old

Powerful nose of toffee and orange. Medium-bodied and very smooth. Orange blossom honey, caramel, and vanilla show on the palate. Exceptionally smooth finish. Filtered through bamboo charcoal and aged in used Japanese plum liqueur (umeshu) casks which no doubt contribute to this whisky’s sweetness and complexity. Lovely balance of all components. A gorgeous blended whisky. Awarded World’s Best Blended Whisky at the 2014 World Whisky Awards.

From left: Suntory Yamazaki; Suntory Hakushu.

 

Nikka Yoichi 

12 Years Old Single Malt

Lovely nose of honey, molasses, fragrant wood, and gunpowder. Sweet, powerful, rich. Toffee, honey, and candied oranges on the palate. Quite impressive.

 

Nikka Taketsuru 

Pure Malt 17 Years Old

Floral and woody nose. Slightly overripe fruit, cocoa powder, orange marmalade, and orange blossom. Rich but very fine. Proclaimed World’s Best Blended Malt in 2012 at the World Whisky Awards. Other awards include silver at the International Spirits Challenge (2012, 2011, 2009, 2007) and gold at the International Spirits Challenge in 2008.

 

Photographs by Ian Castañares