Continuing our reviews of Japanese whiskies, today we focus on Hakashu. Owned by Suntory in Japan, the Hakashu distillery is located in Torihara, Yamanashi Prefecture.
Half a century after the Yamazaki distillery was founded, Keizo Saji inherited his father’s vision, and in his quest for innovation, constructed Suntory’s second distillery in 1973.
Built amidst the deepest forests of Mt. Kaikomagatake in the Japanese Southern Alps, the Hakushu distillery is without question one of the highest in the world. The majestic forest that surrounds the distillery shelters some six thousand varieties of plants-almost twice the number found in Western Europe.
The malt whiskies born here are simultaneously blessed with a very particular microclimate, luxurious forests, and water offering a rare softness and purity, only made possible by filtration of rain and snow through thousand-year-old granite rocks.
Founded in 1973, they make six styles of whiskey, two of which are limited editions. The GSN staff were sent the following for review.
Hakashu 12 (86 proof)
Visual: Yellow gold.
Nose: Smokey, rich and with some young leather.
Taste: Very Scotch-like in character, with an abundance of sweet, hazelnut-like tones. The smoke edges are kept to a minimum, while the malts play much more freely and add a hearty depth to the affair. A fulsome mouthfeel that belies a maturity and assertive quality.
Finish: Interestingly, I pick up a sense of mountain air and loads of sunshine here. A summer-y kind of whisky that reminds me of a unbridaled spirit ready to take on the world.
Overall: Very nice indeed. An oriental version of a Highland Scotch.
GSN Rating: A-
Hakashu Single Malt Heavily Peated (96 proof)
Visual: Mild gold.
Nose: Yes, quite peaty with heavy charred smoke. But, tempered by a wry, sweet edge. This is a marriage between a bold malting floor and a more delicate malted barley.
Taste: A vine fruit entry leads immediately into a noirish smoke-laden atmosphere. You can almost imagine yourself in a 1930’s Japanese bar casually sipping a snifter, while watching a floor show. More to the point, this is an evocative whisky that will take you places.
Finish: The smoke lingers for several minutes, but I’m more impressed with the way the distillate has a warm, almost sensual sweetness. As soon as one glass is finished, you’ll find yourself longing for another rendezvous.
Overall: Possibly the finest Japanese peated whisky on the planet. If you can find a bottle, buy it immediately and only share with your closest friends and loved ones.
GSN Rating: A++
For more information go to: Suntory