In the US we have been acclimated to Suntory’s Yamazaki line up: the 12 year and the 18 year. We have also been teased with the easily embraceable Hibiki 12. Unfortunately, a significant portion of Suntory’s malt repertoire is missing from the US: Hakushu. But the goodness of the Yamazaki and Hibiki lines only make us want more, so just like the grabbing hands we’re gonna grab all we can. Suntory – bring – us – Hakushu – NOW!
But as things stand, pleas aside, malts from Suntory’s Hakushu distillery are not available (outside of carry-on) in the USA. We are, however, holding out hope that one day we will be able to purchase Hakushu here as it is one of our preferred distilleries, period. (And now the fawning will start in earnest.)
A whisky like this does something important for the seasoned patron of well-crafted spirits: it reminds me that something can be easy to enjoy yet retain a touch of mystery. The color, a pleasant golden hue, while not unique, fills the glass in a pretty manner all the same. And in this case, filling the glass is a sound investment. The malty sweetness of the nose is easy to appreciate. And while a respectable tendril of smoke is never far away, the curious, slightly spicy fruit notes, citrus and apple at the same crisp moment, intrigues. A pleasing development ensues with a decent sip (and that is in addition the pleasing development of finally getting a bit of something on route to the bloodstream). Complex and competing flavors get busy. A variety of fruit, a unity of malt, and a decent haze of subtle-smoke play their parts. A spicy nuttiness (as in actual nuts, not silliness) sticks around with a gummy taffy flavored with something as elusive as it is satisfying. A novel and comforting whisky that persuades you to recalibrate your taste buds. Yummy.
The bottle and the box alone are worth it. Admittedly, I have a thing for slightly smaller, non-standard bottles. But they didn’t scrimp on the cork stopper, so enjoy it. A slightly darker hue than its 12 year relation, the nose reveals the family connection. A rounded apple-and-zest scent is there with bright spices and a bit of coconut, perhaps. An interesting oily tinge and that ineffable Hakushu note. Chewy malts deliver, a smooth and subtly smokey body result in a spicy, grain finish. And still the mysteriously satisfying fruit-I-don’t-have-a-name-for haunts me. A solid variation on a theme.
These lively whiskies represent the distinct heritage of Hakushu. I would be delighted to try some Hakushu that underwent a little off-the-beaten-path barrel experimentation, say, finished in a Bordeaux. I would love to get my hands on a cask strength release. Who knows what the future holds. And if the future doesn’t hold any of these pipet dreams, I would be delighted if I could drink Hakushu when I want, whenever I want. – Nate