It’s that time of the year… Japanese January! And we begin the month with an expression from Suntory’s highest distillery, the Hakushu. Established in 1973 and comfortably nestled in the forests at the foothills of Mount Kaikomagatake, this ‘forest distillery‘ lies at a height of 700 metres above sea level, blessed with a unique micro climate and a gifted water source. The distillery gets its water from the Ojira river; filtered from naturally occuring granite rocks, the water here is extremely soft and pure – bestowing it the reputation of being one of the country’s most high quality water sources!
As is clear in plain sight, this is a NAS expression with of course the guarantee that this whisky has spirits aged for a minimum of 3 years. Primarily matured in ex-bourbon barrels and blended with spirits of varied peat levels, it comes in the traditional Suntory style bottling but in a shade of green, most likely homeage to its lush green forest habitat.
ABV : 43%
Eye : Yellow gold
Nose : Vanilla with the sweetness of corn, mildly creamy with added hints of peppermint, slices of green apples and cucumber juice. Some grass followed by a whiff of raisins along with mild savoury notes, herbal nuances and some damp smoke.
Taste : Sweet and crisp, light bodied. Vanilla biscuits infused with nutmeg, minty and woody, with a mild rush of crushed basil in the background. Some red wine with charred melons and a light whiff of peat.
Finish : Medium | Vanilla, melons a mild spice with bits of wood.
Fresh and light, this Hakushu keeps close to the traditional Suntory DNA with subtle and very crisp characteristics. The distinct herbal notes adds another layer to the whisky and the light, green fruity flavours make it a great sipper! Not heavy and not really complex, this expression is however quite robust with a lovely fusion of herbal and sweet nuances. I see altitude would have played in this concoction, considering that with reduced atmospheric pressure, boiling points would also have reduced, making it easier to separate off unwanted chemicals and toxic congeners, whilst till keeping lighter, desirable esters during the distillation process.
Nevertheless being Japanese, you aren’t going to get value for money, but for AUD $135, you do get a peated expression that upholds the Suntory tradition and doesn’t really burn a hole in your pocket! This is a buy for someone who would like to try something from the Orient, something well balanced, something fresh with a kick of peat!