Sunday, April 22, 2007

Hakushu 12 years - "peppery"

This is a favourite of mine. The nose is quite restrained. There is some grape in there, a bit of caramel and also some floral flourishes. Tastes forthright and sweet. Dried apricots? But what really seals the deal for me is the well controlled pepperiness. It is quite light and playful. There is the merest hint of TCP sweetness near the end. But we are talking a hint, this is peppery not medicinal.

A bit of background: Suntory, who make Hakushu, put a lot of emphasis in their marketing on their whiskies being designed to go with Japanese food. Nikka, their main rival, put more emphasis on "authentic-ness". I suppose this difference might be stretched and simplified thus: Suntory like to pose as making "Japanese whisky"; Nikka market themselves as making "authentic Japanese Scotch". There is a danger of making too much of this difference, since a great deal of it is in the marketing style rather than the whisky, but it does seem to have some resonance when tasting the Hakushu 12 and the Hibiki 17. They do have quite a distinctive peppery taste. I can imagine them going quite well with a gingery fish side-dish or something. Japanese people usually eat a little bit when they drink. They also almost always put ice in their whisky, and often make very diluted "mizuwaris" (literally, "water mix") with it. I don`t know about the mizuwari - it seems a shame at this time of year to take good whisky that way, I will wait until the Japanese summer gets to its most sticky and oppressive for that - but Hakushu 12 tastes fairly good with ice. This, by the way, is also true of the Hibiki 17. Suntory always seem to advertise these drinks with ice in them. I`ll keep on taking this favourite without, however, until the weather changes my mind.

Reviews by more reliable types
Martine Nouet, Whisky Magazine, 56,1/6/2006. 7.5/10. Nouet found it sweet and florid on the nose, with sweet citrus notes emerging. In the mouth, she found it a little coarse compared to a "subtle" nose. It tasted sweet but prickly: "ginger and Tabasco". She found the finish drying and spicy with a distant hint of cashew nut.
Dave Broom, Whisky Magazine, 56,1/6/2006. 7.25/10. Broom memorably described this whisky as a ""a trembling and rather sensitive wee soul, but a charming afternoon companion." He found its nose clean and pure: "lightly floral and fragrant if a little lean". The palate was also light: "Starts sweet, then softens into peach before becoming nutty (praline)." Contradicting Nouet's impression, Broom felt the "well ordered" palate delivered more than the nose promised. The finish was "clean but a little short".
Serge Valentin,, March 19, 2005.84/100 ("Recommendable"). Valentin liked the apple and light spices on the nose and also detected "some fresh maritime notes". He found it had a nice rounded liveliness, with a "sweet and delicately peaty and smoky" taste. Overall "a good one."
The 2005 bottling has gained an average score of 83/100 ("recommendable") from the reviewers on the website.

43 per cent
Price (April 2007)
700 ml - 7,035 yen

(Please note the dates on reviews if they are provided. There may be significant variation between different years of a single malt brand)


J said...

Thank you for the wonderful website! It is a wealth of information, extremely valuable to a beginner whisky drinker living in Japan!

I tried the Hakushu 12 year in a mizuwari at the Yamazaki factory, (They had provided it for comparisons with the Yamazaki 12 year)and I did not like it one bit. The Hakushu was very drinkable with a drop of water, but with the water and ice inside, both the nose and taste became very chemical to my inexperienced palate.

Nonjatta said...

Thanks for the comment and for the very kind comments. I have never tried the Hakushu in a mizuwari. To be honest, I would steer clear of mizuwaris with most single malts just because it seems such a waste of good whisky. I think some of the cheaper blends are more designed for mizuwaris (which does not stop some of the Japanese distillers and bars marketing the single malt mizuwari idea like crazy).

Mr Sanguine said...

Thanks for introducing me to this wonderful single malt. I picked up a bottle this afternoon and almost made it a third of the way through by the evening! It really opens up with a dash of water and an ice cube or two. Definitely looking to pick up a few more bottles on my next trip to Japan.

Benjamin Chen said...

Hi there! I'm from Singapore and I found the Hakushu 12 at the Japanese supermarket here.

I have to agree that this is a splendid whisky! I can even smell hints of dried Longans in it, and it is so light and fruity going down.

Thanks also for the wonderful website, it really is my go-to site for Japanese whiskies, and next on my list is a Yoichi 15!

Shean Bedi said...

I love the single malt out of Japan. Best experience was getting a bottle of award winning 1987 Yoichi... that was awesome !

Regular drinking is more on Yamazaki 12 yr old and Hakushu 12 yr old. Problem is getting the regular supply of these bottles. I am based in Manila and can't find anywhere in the city. Always have to wait for someone to travel to Japan and carry back a bottle or two.
Hope someone can suggest a better way for me to get my regular supply in Manila.