Age: No age statement
Popularity always comes at a price. This is certainly true for Japanese whisky, where overwhelming demand and sluggish supply have put immense pressure on stocks of aged spirit. The result has been predictable: a move towards no age statement (NAS) bottlings, with whole ranges of age statement whiskies getting the axe. Sure enough, it’s always sad to see beloved whiskies disappear, but when done right, there’s nothing intrinsically wrong with NAS bottlings. For some proof in the proverbial pudding, look no further than Yamazaki Distiller’s Reserve. Launched in 2014 as Yazazaki’s entry-level whisky, the Distiller’s Reserve fills the gap left by the now hard-to-come-by 12 year old. And for a first foray into NAS whiskies, owners Suntory have certainly not been stingy on the composition of this dram. Featuring whisky finished in ex-Bordeaux casks, older sherry matured spirit and even some of that precious mizunara oak, this Distiller’s Reserve is a captivating concoction. Perhaps all this justifies the hefty price tag – although having said that, this whisky sells for as little as €30 in Japan. And while this bottling is unlikely to make Yamazaki fans forget about the 18 or even 25 year old, the Distiller’s Reserve bears all the hallmarks of a worthy addition to the range.
Colour: Light gold
Nose: Delicately fragrant, with the soft, fruity aromas of peaches and pears drifting from the glass. The mizunara wood lends a spicy touch with scents of cinnamon and cloves, whereas the European oak offers raisins and plenty of red fruit. There’s quite a lot going on here, I’m definitely intrigued!
Palate: Soft and smooth, as the fruity notes take a bit of a backseat. Instead, fresh oaky flavours open up, accompanied by vanilla, coconut and hazelnut. Juicy raspberries battle for prominence with a dash of spice, with neither gaining the upper hand. What a beautifully balanced dram this is!
Finish: Not overly long, but the aftertaste of vanilla and sandalwood lingers pleasantly.
Verdict: Yamazaki Distiller’s Reserve is a wonderfully engineered dram. While the nose quivers with promise, the palate is more focused, offering some classic Yamazaki flavours. The different casks work together brilliantly, achieving a harmony that oozes both subtlety and sophistication. The result is a whisky that’s so very moreish. And that’s also this Yamazaki’s pitfall: although this dram is a delight to drink, it’s never entirely satisfying somehow. But I do realise I’m nitpicking, this Distiller’s Reserve is a fine drop of whisky indeed!