We are just days away from Christmas Day, when we get to sit back, relax and sip a dram of our favourite whisky, unless of course you’re in charge of Christmas dinner.
For Day 4 of our Christmas Countdown, we’ll be looking at an exceptional whisky from one of Suntory’s three famous distilleries. This whisky is a lightly peated single malt that has won plaudits for balance, smoothness and extensive range of notes on offer. It’s the Hakushu 18 Year Old. So without further ado, let’s get into it.
Hakushu is the highest operational distillery in Japan, towering over its competitors at a height of more than 2000 feet above sea-level. It is a Suntory distillery and, while not quite as globally famous as Yamazaki, the quality of single malt whisky produced here is nothing short of outstanding.
Hakushu is known to use one of the most pristine water supplies in the whole of Japan, drawn from reserves at the base of Mount Kai Komagatake. The water here has a very low mineral content and is much softer than that found elsewhere in the country, and this helps the distillery to create a refreshing, crisp and well-balanced range of expressions.
Many of the whiskies created here are lightly peated, giving peat lovers the perfect ‘in’ to the world of Japanese whisky.
On top of receiving the recognition of critics, experts and fans around the world, the distillery’s expressions have also picked up a whole host of awards that highlight the effective processes and expertise of those behind their whisky production.
It’s hard to pick a winner from Hakushu’s varied range, but the 18 Year Old has to be right up there. This is a whisky that is so smooth, well-balanced and complex that it comes incredibly close to perfection.
Made up from a selection of carefully matured whisky, that has been under the eagle-eye of the master distiller for at least 18 years, this refreshing dram has it all.
Both sherry influences and bourbon influences can be detected through rich fruits, citrus, honey, apricots and sweet dark chocolate. These are all supported by that lightly peated character that also brings slight floral notes to the table.
The peat opens up with more time spent in the glass and a little burst of lemon juice makes itself known too. All the while, very gentle cinnamon and cloves hide in the background, but they’re certainly detectable to a trained nose.
This extensive and delightful range of notes, combined with the unparalleled smoothness, have lead the Hakushu 18 Year Old to pick up multiple award throughout the years.
In 2016, it won “Best Japanese Single Malt Whisky” at the World Whiskies Awards, on top of a Double Gold in San Francisco in 2013, ‘14 and ‘15. These are just a few of the awards that we thought were worth mentioning. If we listed all of them, we’d be here a while and would have a very long blog post on our hands, it really has won that many.
It would be entirely wrong to leave such a delicious and successful whisky out of our 2018 Christmas Countdown, so it more than deserves its place here today.
Other Hakushu Expressions
The 18 Year Old may be one of the best whiskies from the Hakushu distillery, but there are a whole host of others that would put up a worthy fight to be crowned as their best expression.
The 12 Year Old also delivers a great smoothness and a nice range of notes. This has lead it to become hugely popular in Japan and it is often used in the famous Japanese Highball. The lack of any real burn makes it an ideal choice for sipping neat, with ice or mixed with soda.
Then we have the older 25 Year Old. This one brings a lot more peat to the table and a certain woodiness that tends to only be found in drams that have been matured for a longer duration. Scoring 93/100 in Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible, this (like the 18 Year Old) has become a staple of Japanese whisky lovers.
The distillery also offers a range of Limited Edition expressions such as their “Heavily Peated” expression (you can imagine what this tastes like), and their new Rye Type release that makes up part of the Essence of Suntory series.
Whatever expression you go for, you can be sure that it will bring packets of flavour and will go down easy, just as Hakushu whisky is famous for.