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The 2015 Badger & Blade Awards – Whisky

2015 Winner – Whisky

Yamazaki 18 $NA

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Japanese scotch has always been a bit of an oddball. A peaty concoction hailing from a locale other than Scotland is indeed rare, but Yamazaki does the Scots proud with this lovely homage. My foray into Japanese scotch started off a bit bumpy. Some time ago at the Whiskies of the World show in San Francisco I sampled the Yamazaki 12 as my first dabble into this mysterious new world and I was not impressed. In fact, I was so underwhelmed by the salty, overly bright, fruity and unbalanced flavor of the Yamazaki 12, I promptly dismissed all Japanese whisky as rubbish and avoided it for years.

While on a business trip, a glencairn of Yamazaki 18 was thrust in my direction by an overly enthusiastic colleague. To avoid insulting him and refusing his well-intentioned gift, I took a sip and I was immediately taken aback. Could this nectar of the gods really be the same swill I remembered, aged another 6 years in the cask? I shared my story of the 12 year with my colleagues, and before I knew it we were all double fisting Yamazaki, the 12 year in one hand the 18 in the other.

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The consensus was unanimous. The 12 year was suitable for sterilizing wounds and the 18 was magic. Sure, wound sterilization is an exaggeration, but I’ve not (nor have they) sampled a 12/18 side by side from the same distillery and noticed such a significant difference between the two. We each got a glass of Macallan 12 and 18 and did the same side by side. Sure, the Macallan 18 was better… but not so much better we’d feel compelled to pay the higher entry fee for the Macallan 18. The Yamazaki? Completely different story; not only did we feel the Yamazaki 18 was in another league from the 12, we also thought it bloodied the nose of the Macallan 18. We all relayed our intent to acquire a bottle of Yamazaki 18 when we got home… and we all did. Yamazaki 18 is truly a treasure, to be shared with close friends, or selfishly squandered for yourself.

whisky3Nose: Robust and layered with thick base-notes of oak and dates. Sandwiched above its stout base is a lovely marriage of burnt maple sugar, amontillado sherry, cherry blossom and a slight whiff of peat.

Palate: While the nose generally hides the peat, the palate presents it with style and balance – offering tremendous flavor with exceptional elegance and grace. The balance of the woody, peaty base – sprinkled with orchard fruit, toffee, brandy, sherry and vanilla make for a whisky more reminiscent to a stratospherically high-end Armagnac then a single malt Scotch. Whatever it is, it works and is truly magical if you have the time and palate to appreciate picking apart each element. Set aside some time in front of a fireplace and put on your favorite music and prepare to go on an adventure, with Yamazaki 18 as your guide.

Recently, I took a trip to Japan and received a private tour of their distillery from Miyamotosan, Yamazaki’s master distiller. Stay tuned, next year, I’ll post up a factory tour.

Note: Yamazaki 18 is currently out of season and thus is difficult to acquire for a reasonable price. Wait until spring, and stock up!

 

Joel

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