Hakushu 12 Years Review

“A Walk in the Forest on a Foggy Day”

Country: Japan
Brand: Hakushu 
Type: Single Malt Whisky
Age: 12 Years
ABV: 43 %
Happy Hour Retirement Jan
Colour: Light Gold

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Nose: Earthy, Floral, Malty and Mineral. The Alcohol is quite strong at first so you have to Nose your way around it carefully. In any case give it sufficient time in the glass. I find Sweet Barley, Fresh Cut Grass and Hay, Wax, Soap, Syrup, light Honey, Nougat, Plants, Nuts, Oak, Dried Fruits (Raisins), Orchard Fruit, Lemon, Margarine and light Pepper. The Nose is as Green as the Bottle. And underneath it all I find a light Medicinal Smoke. It's like taking a walk in a forest on a foggy day.

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Palate: Bitter-Sweet, Young and slightly Edgy with Pear, Green Apple, Grass, Herbal Tea, Wax, Toast, Margarine, Sweet Barley, Vanilla, Lemon Zest, Pepper, Ginger, Cardamom, Mint, light Honey, Floral tones, light Smoke, Oak, Grapes and Grappa.

Happy Hour Retirement Jan

Finish: Medium long, Bitter-Sweet and Dry with Ice Tea Lemon, Wax, Syrup, Pepper, Cardamom, Ginger, Oak, Mint, light Smoke and light Honey.

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With added Water, the Nose gets more Lemon, Wax, Soap and Malt. On the Palate I find some Tropical Fruit like Pineapple and Kiwi. But the Finish becomes too Thin. Still, there's room to play with a couple of drops.

Rating: 82

Nose: 21 - Taste: 20.5 - Finish: 20 - Overall: 20.5

The Hakushu Distillery, a Giant Hidden in the Forest!

General Remarks: The Hakushu Distillery was founded in 1973 and is located in a forest on the slopes of Mount Kaikoma in the Toribara district of the city of Hokuto, around 120 km west of Tokyo. The area is also known as Japan's Southern Alps. In 1981 a large expansion took place, now called Hakushu East while the original site is now known as Hakushu West. The Distillery has 8 pairs of Stills at the moment and is owned by the Suntory Group. Most of the Spirit production goes into the Suntory Blends. Four Single Malts are part of the core range as well, namely the NAS Distiller's Reserve, the 12 Years, the 18 Years and the 25 Years. The Hakushu 12 Years is made with both lightly peated and unpeated Malt and matures in Ex-Bourbon Casks (mostly Hogsheads) and some Ex-Sherry Casks. The 12 Years sells at an average 75 US Dollars. I received a bottle of the 12 Years as a Goodbye Present from my closest colleagues during a Happy Hour offered to me on account of my retirement. As you can see I have added a few pictures of the event. It was a great evening! In fact it was great working with this fantastic group of people for so many years. Thanks from the bottom of my heart for the great time we had together. We'll be in touch!

Some of the Stills at Hakushu

Drinking Experience Neat: Good

Conclusion: The Hakushu 12 Years Smells and Tastes much younger than its actual age. The high location of the Distillery will likely be responsible for that as Whisky matures slower in high altitudes and low temperatures. Unlike its big brother, the Yamazaki, the Hakushu only slightly resembles Scottish Single Malt. It really has its own characteristics. It's Fresh, Light, Clean and very Floral. The Smoke is Ultra-Light but nevertheless forms an important part of the Flavour Profile. If you are a regular Scotch drinker I would advise you to try a sample first before deciding to buy a full bottle. Personally i found that the Hakushu 12 Years grew on me over the last few days. Once I got familiar with the Aromas and Flavours I found myself wanting to take another sip. The Hakusku 12 may not be the preferred Single Malt for everybody but it certainly stands out as remarkable in the Forest of Whiskies that's out there today. 

Jan van den Ende                                                          December 17, 2014

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A Splendid Speyside Surprise Review

“She’s a Mystery To Me” 

Country: Scotland
Region: Speyside  
Brand: A Splendid Speyside Surprise (The Soul of Scotland Series)
Type: Single Malt Whisky
Age: 17 Years
ABV: 48.5 %
Sample provided by Thomas from Germany. Many Thanks!

Colour: Golden

Nose: Alternate Fruity and Floral tones. Be sure to give this Malt some time to breathe. I find Malt, Butterscotch, Toffee, Buttered Toast, Honey, Brown Sugar, Dried Fruits, Heather, Grandma's Fragrant Soap, Sherry, a hint of Sulphur, light Vanilla, Canned Pineapple in Syrup, Dusty Road, Wood, light Cinnamon, light Clove, Nuts and Espresso. It's all pretty Delicate despite the quite strong Alcohol that's still around. A bit Musty as well.

Palate: Here the Sherry is much more present. I find Nuts and Raisins, Honey, Toffee, Orange, Canned Peaches in Syrup, Brown Sugar, slightly Bitter Oak, Musty Dried Herbs, Cinnamon, Clove, Nutmeg, Pepper and Licorice.

Finish: Middle Long and Bitter Sweet with slightly Bitter Orange, Berries, Bitter Oak, Toffee, Hazelnuts, Dried Herbs, Pepper, Mint and Licorice. Quite Dry in the end.

The Splendid Speyside Surprise does not improve with added Water. It gets very Sweet and Malty. Better sip it neat.

Rating: 84.5 

Nose: 21.5 - Taste: 21 - Finish: 21 - Overall: 21 

River Spey (Photo Credit: Rene Ramon)

General Remarks: The Splendid Speyside Surprise was distilled in 1995. It matured in an Ex-Bourbon Cask and was bottled in 2012 for Anam Na H-Alba, the Independent Whisky bottler from Oberhausen in GermanyThis Single Malt Single Cask Whisky is Uncoloured and Non Chill-Filtered. It was sold at roughly 75 US Dollars per bottle. I'm not sure it's still around! 

Drinking Experience Neat: Good 

Conclusion: A nice but not perfect Speysider. Quite Fruity, Floral, Delicate and a bit Musty on the Nose. More Robust on the Palate with Sherry and lots of Herbs, Spices and Oak. Personally I believe this rather delicate Spirit has overstayed its time in the Cask a bit. Perhaps 15 Years would have been quite sufficient. It's not easy to identify the Distillery that produced this Spirit. If pressed, I would say that the Sherry and the Earthy, Dusty Feeling would point in the direction of Aberlour or Glenfarclas. But my guess is as good as yours. If you have any info on the matter, please leave a comment. Thanks!

Jan van den Ende                                                         December 15, 2014