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Yamazaki 12 Year Single Malt Whisky (Suntory)

Review: Yamazaki 12 Year Old Single Malt Whisky (Suntory)   87.5/100
a Review by Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)
Posted January 17, 2012

The Suntory Group is a large multi-national conglomerate whose holdings include Morrison Bowmore Distillers, Pepsi Bottling Ventures LLC, and Subway Japan among many others. The company was established in 1899 and is one of the oldest Japanese companies in the business of producing and distributing alcoholic beverages. Their Yamazaki 12 Year Old Single Malt Whisky is produced at the Yamazaki Distillery in Shimamoto, Japan. This is a true 12-year-old whisky as Japan uses the same criteria for age statements as countries like Canada and Scotland, namely that every drop of whisky in the bottle must be at least as old as the stated age on the outside label. The Yamazaki 12 Year Old is considered the flagship whisky for the Yamazaki Brand, and I am happy to provide a review here on my website.

Note: The Yamazaki 12-year-old is distributed by Lifford Wines in my home Province of Alberta.

SAM_0588 Yamazaki 12In the Bottle 4/5

To the left is the bottle presentation for the Yamazaki 12 Year Old Whisky. I am a little disappointed by the minimalist label which I was hoping would have more character and ambiance. The label is, in fact, so minimalistic that certain information which I would consider important is missing. There is no statement telling me that the bottle is in fact 750 ml. (this statement had to be found on the box that housed the whisky), and there are no tasting notes nor any information about the aging barrels used to produce the whisky which means that the average consumer really has no idea what to expect as far as flavour profile goes when deciding whether or not to purchase the whisky.

One pleasing aspect of the Yamazaki bottle presentation is that the bottle seems larger than its 750ml size, and that seems to give me a sense of satisfaction when I hold it to pour a wee dram.

In the Glass 8.5/10

When I pour the whisky into my glass it has a golden colour with darker coppery highlights apparent. A bevy of fresh fruit aromas (yellow apples, honey-dew melon, bananas, and peaches) rise up along side honeyed oak spices. There is a light maltiness (beer-like scent) apparent, with wisps of vanilla, hints of almond and orange peel. The whisky seems lightly smoky with a few sherried notes of raisin and dates making their way into the air, and my overall impression of the breezes above the glass is that this Japanese Whisky reminds me very much of a typical well-balanced ‘Speyside’ whisky.

In the Mouth 53/60

The nose translates to the mouth quite well, although we have perhaps a stronger sherry influence in the taste than what I noticed in the breezes. Candied raisins and dates, some orange marmalade, vanilla, honey, oak spices, and impressions of ripe yellow apples and canned peaches all seem to find a way to impress themselves upon my consciousness. The whisky carries a little heat as well, not in a bad way but rather in a nice 43 % alcohol by volume way which helps to punch the flavour forward.

A nice feature of the Yamazaki 12 is that this seems to be one of those whiskies which reveals just a bit more each time you return to the glass. Subsequent tastings show a little coffee and chocolate in the flavour profile. At time the whisky seems lightly floral and on some days I taste a nice nutty sensation of roasted almond. Each time I tasted the malt, I seemed to find a reason to increase the score just a little as well.

In the Throat 13/15

The whisky is pleasingly smooth in the throat despite the additional heat from the higher alcohol content. I would not call the finish long and lingering, although some honey sweetness and dark candied fruit do leave a pleasant final impression.

The Afterburn 9/10

This is only the second Japanese whisky which I have reviewed, and I found the experience very enjoyable. The Yamazaki 12 Year Old is a very well constructed single malt with a lightly smokey flavour profile which includes a bevy of fruit flavours and an appealing combination of honey and oak spices.

My final score of 87.5/100 reflects a whisky which works well for sipping, although I must confess I also enjoyed a few nice cocktails as well.

You may read some of my other Whisky Reviews (click the link) if you wish to have some comparative reviews.


Suggested Recipe:

Here is a great sipping cocktail which I found worked very well with the Yamazaki 12 Year Old.

SAM_0589 Alpine MeadowAlpine Meadows

1 1/2 Oz Yamazaki 12 Year Old Single Malt Whisky
3/4 Oz Citadelle Reserve Gin
3/4 Oz Pierre Ferrand Dry Curacao
Lemon Slice

Place a lemon slice into a chilled brandy glass
Place the other ingredients into a metal shaker with ice
Shake until the sides of the shaker frost
strain into chilled glass
enjoy very slowly


As always you may interpret the scores I provide as follows.

0-25 A spirit with a rating this low would actually kill you.
26-49 Depending upon your fortitude you might actually survive this.
50 -59 You are safe to drink this…but you shouldn’t.
60-69 Substandard swill which you may offer to people you do not want to see again.
70-74 Now we have a fair mixing rum or whisky.  Accept this but make sure it is mixed into a cocktail.
75-79 You may begin to serve this to friends, again probably still cocktail territory.
80-84 We begin to enjoy this spirit neat or on the rocks. (I will still primarily mix cocktails)
85-89 Excellent for sipping or for mixing!
90-94 Definitely a primary sipping spirit, in fact you may want to hoard this for yourself.
95-97.5 The Cream of the Crop
98+ I haven’t met this bottle yet…but I want to.

Very loosely we may put my scores into terms that you may be more familiar with on a Gold, Silver, and  Bronze medal  scale as follows:

70 – 79.5    Bronze Medal (Recommended only as a mixer)
80 – 89.5     Silver Medal (Recommended for sipping and or a high quality mixer)
90 – 95         Gold Medal (Highly recommended for sipping and for sublime cocktails.)
95.5+            Platinum Award (Highest Recommendation)

One Response to “Yamazaki 12 Year Single Malt Whisky (Suntory)”

  1. Mike said

    This whisky impressed the hell out of me when I bought it. Made me think of Glenkinchie on steroids. Very nice floral/estery notes.

    I’m surprised you didn’t make mention of the superbly engineered plastic screw cap. The Japanese seem to do a fine job on their plastic caps, to the point where I almost prefer them to cork tops.

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