Yamazaki Distiller’s Reserve

Yamazaki Distiller's ReserveDistillery: Yamazaki
Country: Japan
Age: No age statement
abv: 43%

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.

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Suntory The Chita

Suntory The Chita 01Distillery: Chita
Country: Japan
Age: No age statement
abv: 43%

The SunGrain Chita distillery is – what’s in a name? – a grain whisky distillery owned by Japanese drinks giant Suntory. Since 1972, Chita has produced the raw materials for Suntory blends such as Hibiki and Kakubin. With the current shortage of Japanese malt whisky though, Chita has taken on a more prominent role. Over the past decade, sales of Japanese whisky have skyrocketed. With stocks of aged malt dwindling quickly, distillers have been unable to keep up with the sudden spike in demand. Much like in Scotland, Japanese whisky has therefore seen a shift to NAS (No Age Statement) bottlings, but single grain has also entered the scene to fill the gap in supply. Nikka Coffey Grain was the first example of this, and The Chita followed quickly as Suntory’s answer.

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Hakushu Heavily Peated

Hakushu Heavily Peated 01Distillery: Hakushu
Country: Japan
Age: No age statement
abv: 48%

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.

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