First of all: The date and time of this post was not random, but rather intentional. The date and time mark the official first anniversary of this blog, which has become a labour of love and something that I have poured my heart and soul into.
I am immensely grateful to each and every one of you for having stuck by me as I overcame my initial inertia in terms of posting (the first 3 months were especially difficult) and reach a point where motivation overcame inertia and has led me to this wonderful state of one post per week.
The fruits of my labour is clear for all to see and I can’t thank you all enough for the readership and feedback that I have received. Here’s to the next year (and many years beyond that)!
Today’s review keeps us firmly within the grasp of Japanese whisky and it has definitely been a long time in the works, primarily because I only recently had the chance to sample this particular dram thanks to a mate of mine.
As mentioned in the previous post, one of my mates brought over a bottle of Nikka ‘Yoichi’ 15 Years Old during a drinking session and also told me that he had another whisky for me to taste and review. When I found out that it was the Yamazaki 18 Years Old, I must admit that I was rather stoked.
Here was the chance to finally savour and review a whisky that the vast majority of the whisky drinkers have been raving about and lauding for some years now and just like the Yoichi, it has become a victim of its own success to the point where prices are now simply outrageous (with bottles retailing for anywhere between SG$550-700 these days).
Granted that I actually savoured this beauty at close to 2am in the morning, but considering that it was a surprisingly cool and breezy summer night/morning, I found it rather fitting.
As mentioned in the previous article, the success of the age statemented versions of some Japanese whiskies have caused demand to outstrip supply by almost 3 to 1 and forced both Suntory and Nikka to rethink their strategies with a view to conserving maturing whisky stocks in order to have enough for future releases.
As a result, they have phased out the age statemented versions of many of their single malt, blended malt and blended whiskies and introduced NAS versions of each category. The hope is that by retaining the respective “house styles”, they’d be able to retain the customers who have so religiously purchased and consumed their age statemented whiskies.
Getting back to the review itself, after savouring a sample and forming a basic review of the dram, I asked my mate if I was able to take some back for my personal collection and he graciously agreed (cheers Vincent!) to the request and even allowed me to take the bottle back to add to my collection.
So, without further delay, let’s get to it!
Yamazaki 18 Years Old (43% abv)
Nose: Initial entry presents a rather concentrated floral note with some underlying peach and oaky scents that one would generally associate with the Yamazaki house style. There’s a hint of wood spice in there (nutmeg and cinnamon predominantly with just a bit of cloves).
With time, some of the sherried notes and a certain zestiness present themselves along with apricots, plums and just a hint of wood varnish. The oakiness becomes more pronounced with time and adds an elegant dimension to the experience. (23/25)
Palate: Thick and concentrated floral and fruit notes with some of the sherry peeking through upon initial entry. Even at 43% abv, the alcohol can be identified but it is dignified and prefers to linger in the background with and mingle with some cigar smoke.
There’s hints of green unripe fruits alongside the peaches and apricots as well as something almost herbal in nature. Damp earth, wood varnish (somewhat sulphury) and the aforementioned wood spices are also present. (22/25)
Finish: Medium length finish with a satisfyingly oily mouthfeel. The predominant notes at the end would be woody and fruity in nature with floral undertones and just a hint of cigar smoke. Quite a rich and satisfying dram. (21/25)
Balance: Pretty well balanced dram which showcases the floral and fruity Yamazaki house style while also showcases a certain sophistication that a long maturation usually provides. It is further proof that the base spirit ages well and I can definitely see the appeal of the dram. (23/25)
Having first tasted the Yoichi 15 Years Old earlier in the night and this one some time after, I preferred the former as it seemed to exhibit a fuller nosing and tasting experience. That being said, it could also be a case of my palate being fatigued due to the other whiskies that were available on the night.
I definitely understand the appeal of this whisky and why it is so popular among whisky drinkers and there is no doubt that Yamazaki are capable of some phenomenal whiskies (having tried the Yamazaki 10 and 12 Years Old expressions, they surely are masters of their craft).
It is definitely rather sad to see the age statemented Japanese whiskies get phased out due to demand being rather mad at the moment and while industry experts believe that these expressions would probably return sometime in the next 15-20 years, it is very difficult to say that with any certainty at this point.
I for one would definitely love to see this expression widely available again (and at a decent price and not anywhere near the levels that we see today) as it would be a shame if it was consigned to the pages of history and only available to rich collectors.
Until the next time, let’s raise a glass to the year that has gone by and the year ahead.