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Yamazaki 12 years old from Japan is a whiskey that I have loved every time I have had the chance to try it. The bottle I sampled for this room was actually the one in the back of the cabinet, which I’ve been sitting on for far too long. When a companion saw it, he begged me not to open it.
“Far too expensive just to crack a drink,” he insisted, although I don’t buy bottles to resell them, so I have no idea what he expected me to do with them. Since it’s been with me for a long time, I would have taken it when the price was still very reasonable, although I can’t remember exactly how much I paid.
Today it’s around 350 AUD (I’m guessing at least well over double what I paid – it’s grown over 70% over the past couple of years and apparently almost always sells for more. twice the price recommended by the producer, such is the demand). Worse yet, I recently came across a wine list in China offering a 30ml glass for just $ 440!
But that’s the general problem with Japanese whiskey these days. The prices have exploded.
There was a second problem. As soon as I started my research I found plenty of references to stopping this Yamazaki – many top Japanese whiskeys have been, in fact, thanks to shortages due to global demand.
Whiskeys with no indication of age have become much more common because, despite the construction of many new distilleries, they do not have the necessary aged equipment and will not have any for many years.
And if you think there is a problem now, the Rugby World Cup is about to kick off in Japan, bringing with it a large number of well-off visitors who expect to drink and buy the best Japanese whiskeys. .
Worse yet, next year Tokyo will host the 2020 Olympics. Refuel soon or say goodbye for many years to come.
The good news is that my information suggests that the Yamazaki 12 year old hasn’t been discontinued, but that doesn’t mean it won’t be in the near future.
Suntory, the owner of Yamazaki and a number of other great Japanese whiskeys, ditched his 17-Year-Old Hibiki (which would have devastated Bill Murray’s character in Lost in translation) and the 12-year-old Hakushu Single Malt.
Yamazaki did not release a limited edition for 2018, despite the huge popularity of these versions from 2015 to 2017.
#kenfessions: the author is a fan of Japanese whiskeys
So with all that behind us, forward. It’s no secret that I’m a fan of the best Japanese whiskeys. Some may remember that we looked at some of the amazing Chichibu whiskeys, made by Ichiro Akuto. If a reader was interested, I hope you understood it quickly.
Shortly after this article was published in May 2019, a complete set of 54 bottles of Hanyu Ichiro’s card series, mentioned in the story, sold for HK $ 7,192,000 (just under a million US dollars !!).
Apparently, this was only one of four complete sets remaining, although readers may recall that the series’ bottles were known to languish on the shelves for several years, considered almost unsaleable a few years before.
Yamazaki is part of the Suntory Empire. Founded by Shinjiro Torii, it was Japan’s first commercial distillery. Opened in 1923 in Shimamoto, Osaka Prefecture, the first whiskey emerged in 1929, but with rather understated accolades.
The three staple single malts in the range are 12-Year-Old, 18-Year-Old, and 25-Year-Old, although it looks like 18-Year-Old is now on that dreaded abandoned list. .
As much as I would have liked it to be around the 25th, unfortunately none was at the bottom of the magic cupboard. And with the price, if any were available these days, pushing AUD $ 6,000 a bottle, I’m not holding my breath.
Yamazaki also occasionally makes Sherry Cask, which was named in Jim Murray’s Whiskey Bible as the “best whiskey in the world” in 2013; various vintage whiskeys; and, on occasion, others like a 10-Year-Old and even a 50-Year-Old.
A bottle of the latter set a record price for Japanese whiskey at auction last year in Hong Kong, exceeding $ 343,000 (the winning bidder remains anonymous). This whiskey was originally released in 2005 at a price of around $ 9,000, which probably sounded outrageous at the time.
It was limited to just 50 bottles and it is believed that the majority, which went to various local bars, were opened and enjoyed shortly after they landed. A second release of 50 additional bottles was offered in 2007 and then, in 2011, 150 final bottles.
The early versions of the distillery, labeled ‘Suntory’, were shameless attempts to replicate Scottish whiskeys.
The first master distiller, Masataka Taketsuru, was trained as an organic chemist and whiskey distiller in Scotland (part of this sudden and unprecedented demand for quality Japanese whiskey is thought to have arisen because of a television series of 2014 based on his life).
Success finally came when Shinjiro Torii launched the Kakubin label in 1937. No Yamazaki whiskey appeared until his first single malt in 1984 thanks to Shinjiro Torii’s son Keizo Saji, the distillery’s second master blender.
In 1992, Suntory added the 18-year-old, a ten-year-old in 1995, then his 25th birthday.
In 2003, the 12-Year-Old became the first Japanese whiskey to win gold at the International Spirits Challenge. It was the start of a bling cavalcade for its whiskeys.
Yamazaki works with both wooden and stainless steel fermentation tanks and uses different yeasts, depending on the final flavor profile sought by the blenders. They use a dozen stills of different shapes and sizes and a wide range of different oaks for barrel aging, including 180 liter, 230 liter roasted casks. barricades, American oak puncheons, Spanish oak barrels, and even Mizunara (Japanese oak) barrels.
The 12-Year-Old matures in a blend of old Bourbon and American oak barrels with a touch of matter that saw time in old Oloroso barrels and Mizunara oak.
Yamazaki 12 years old: tasting notes
The 12-Year-Old is a wonderful whiskey. Notes of honey, cinnamon and peach with a hint of caramel. Complex. That’s great. The slightest whiff of white chocolate. There is a noticeable spirit character, but it’s so well balanced and deliciously sweet. Terrific length. For a score, an easy 96.
I love this whiskey. What a sad day to have recognized that it is probably one of those spirits who have only become a special occasion! Maybe my mate was right.
For more please visit www.whisky.suntory.com/en/na/products/yamazaki.
* This story was first published on September 17, 2019 in Yamazaki 12-Year-Old Japanese Whiskey: Why Pricing Has Gone Through The Roof.
You can also enjoy:
Chichibu whiskey: the Japanese version of Pappy Van Winkle
Whiskey Lagavulin 16 years old and why Ron Swanson was right about the money
Last Drop 1971 Blended Scotch Whiskey: is it the most exclusive whiskey in the world?
Glenlivet Winchester Collection Vintage 1967: ultra-rare 50-year-old single malt Scotch whiskey sold for $ 25,000 per bottle