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Review: The Hakushu Japanese Whisky 12 Years Old

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The Japanese whisky magnates at Suntory have released their third product to the American market: The Hakushu, a whisky distilled and aged “at the foot of the Southern Japan Alps.” Available in ages from 10 to 25 years, only the 12 year old has made it into even remotely wide availability.

This single malt whisky is unusual among Japanese whiskys in that it is peated, as a matter of house style instead of as a “special edition” bottling. In fact, the “heavily peated” special version of Hakushu is highly prized by collectors.

This version, however, goes pretty easy on the peat — it’s the barley is peated in Scotland, then shipped to Japan afterward — making itself known but never overdoing things. The warm, fireside-like smokiness of the spirit is nicely balanced with big honey and caramel notes. I’m reminded of Highland Scotch whiskys, which have that nice balance of both sweet and savory.

I’ve tried this whisky previously at a tasting event and wasn’t impressed. The smoke was showing too strongly at the time — an unfortunate by-product of the way events like this work — but here I’m finding it quite the charmer.

86 proof.

A- / $57 / suntory.com [BUY IT NOW FROM CASKERS]

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Christopher Null

Christopher Null is the founder and editor in chief of Drinkhacker. A veteran writer and journalist, he also operates Null Media, a bespoke content company.

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3 Comments

  1. sokojoe January 16, 2012

    Unless you’re counting their Yamazaki 12 and 18 yo as one product, wouldn’t this be the fourth with the Hibiki 12 yo being the third? I was fortunate to visit the distillery on my trip to Japan last year. Great tour and an excellent tasting room to boot.

    Reply
  2. Christopher Null January 16, 2012

    I’m counting the entire Yamizaki line (including Yamizaki 1984) as one “product.” Hibiki as #2.

    Reply
  3. sokojoe January 17, 2012

    Fair enough. Cheers and keep up the great work.

    Reply

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