Age: No age statement
One of only nine Japanese whisky distilleries, Hakushu is located on Japan’s main island of Honshu. Often dubbed the ‘Forest Distillery’, Hakushu can be found at the foot of Mount Asayo in the Southern Alps. Unsurprisingly, this gives it access to some of the highest quality water sources in Japan. Hakushu opened its doors in 1973 and is owned by Suntory, one of Japan’s oldest and most famous whisky producers. The Heavily Peated expression was released as a limited edition in 2013 and is now hard to come by. I for one hope it will be relaunched soon, as this is wonderful dram that offers subtlety, complexity, and a very pleasant waft of peat smoke.
Colour: Yellow gold
Nose: Light and delicate, with subtle hints of pear, nutmeg and white chocolate. There’s very little sign of the ‘heavily peated’ indicated on the label. Faint notes of maple syrup and hazelnut give way to pine wood, with a trace of caramel and vanilla. In all, the nose is quite subdued and gives away few clues of what this whisky has to offer.
Palate: Woah this is quite the surprise! While the nose was ultra-delicate, the palate explodes in a burst of hot and sparkly sweetness. After a continued eruption of spicy, peppery flavours, a somewhat restrained wave of peat brushes in. This is replaced by complex aged oak and fruity undertones of ripe apple and peach.
Finish: Medium in length but fiery. Finally the peat is allowed to explode in full force, resulting in an aftertaste of charred wood.
Verdict: While certainly not as peaty as some of the Islay heavy hitters, this whisky still packs plenty of punch. Smoky but not medicinal, this Hakushu offers an initial subtlety, before moving on to a more robust range of flavours. It feels like this whisky invites you along on a journey, as it constantly develops from start to finish. A very pleasant dram, and one that Japanese whisky makers can be proud of!