Hailing from Suntory’s Hakushu Distillery (pronounced ‘hack-shoo’, which in means ‘white sand bar’) that stands 2,300 feet above sea level – more than twice the altitude of Scotland’s highest distillery – in the shadow of the pale granite pyramid of Mount Kaikomagateke (9,744 feet), in the Japanese Alps. Hakushu was once the largest distillery in the world, with two huge stillhouses producing a vast array of different makes for the Suntory blenders. These days, only one of the stillhouses is operational but the ethos of variety remains the same. Hakushu is known for being a “green and fresh” whisky, praised by the most curious whisky connoisseurs and lovers of gastronomy. This particular single malt has been solely aged in ex-sherry oak casks – packing it with some delectably sweet and peaty notes.
On the nose: you’ll get a waft of freshly plums, oranges and currants, accompanied by whisper of rich dark smoke. These initial notes are followed by notes of toasted rice, vanilla, honey; alongside some subtle spices, cinnamon, star anise and liqourice. More notes start to emerge in the form of a welcomed meaty note, as well as tobacco, a leathery note, lychees and caramel. Rounding-off the rather complex nose are notes of eucalyptus, a hint of salted caramel, lemon zest and a touch of lavender. On the palate: you’ll be able to taste those salted caramel notes, followed by vanilla custard (giving it an air of creme brûlée), as well as marzipan, toasted rice and smoke. These notes are followed by turmeric, stem ginger, lemon zest, all spice and some cinnamon. There is a lovely suggest of sage that emerge, alongside lychees, elderflower, poached pears and lavendar. The finish: is medium/long, bittersweet and zesty with lingering smoke and chocolate.
The verdict: It’s no secret that out of Suntory’s expressions, Yamazaki is by far the favourite and it is rather hot property right now – though that wasn’t always the case. That said, I’ve never been one to follow the crowd and for me, I think Hakushu is far more delicate and sophisticated dram than Yamazaki. This particular 25-year-old expression from the Hakushu distillery embodies these qualities and as complex as it is, it is also rather refreshing. Bottled at 43% ABV, in my opinion, I don’t believe there is any need to add water, however, do so if required. Also leaving it to breathe for up to 10 minutes, also yields more depth in flavour.
Suntory Hakushu 25 Year Old Japanese Single Malt Whisky can be found online or in-store at any well-stocked whisky shop for approximately £3,500
For more information on this 25 year-old Hakushu expression, visit the official Suntory website.