The legendary Yamazaki 12 Years Old is being poured at premium bars across India right now.
There was a time when Japanese whiskies were not too well known outside Japan. Now any half-decent bar anywhere in the world will likely have a section devoted to Japanese whiskies. From a niche, cult following, Japanese whiskies are finally enjoying their place in the sun. And none is more venerable, or more well known, than Yamazaki, the very first of them.
Set on the outskirts of Kyoto, the Yamazaki Distillery opened in 1923. It was set up by Shinjiro Torii, who had opened a store in Osaka in 1899 to sell imported wines. It became the Kotobukiya Company in 1921 and eventually Suntory. Since Torii wanted to produce a serious whisky, he hired Taketsuru Masataka as factory director in 1924. Masataka, descendant of a 17th-century sake brewing family, had lived in Scotland, where he had learnt the techniques of making Scotch whisky.
The distillery produced its first whisky in 1929, and was sold as shirofuda (English white label). Masataka eventually left the company and founded Nikka Whisky, which exists to this day and is now owned by Asahi.
Yamazaki’s terroir seems to be the stuff of dreams. The region, formerly known as Minaseno, is where the Katsura, Uji and Kizu rivers converge, providing a unique misty climate and one of Japan’s softest and purest waters. An apt place for the birth of fine Japanese whisky. Inspired by traditional Scottish whisky, Torii envisioned a Japanese approach by choosing this terrain and climate to create a unique kind of whisky. The diversity of the region’s temperature and humidity create ideal conditions for cask aging, and this is known as the signature ‘Suntory Maturation’.
The Yamazaki distillery is distinguished by its uniqueness of producing a variety of whiskies in a single distillery; in every process of whisky making — fermentation, distillation, ageing, and vatting — the distillery’s craftsmen have been adding new innovations while continuing to practice skills passed down by their predecessors.
The Yamazaki single malt was born in 1984. Known for its heritage and refined yet complex taste, it is aged in Yamazaki’s sherry casks and aged mizunara (Japanese oak) casks, which lend an underlying trace of oak to its flavour profile. Multi-layered with fruity sweetness and Mizunara aromas, Yamazaki whisky is said to offer a delicate yet profound experience.
Yamazaki whisky’s most popular variants are the 12-year-old, 18-year-old and 25-year-old. Limited stocks of the Yamazaki 12 Years Old are now available at star properties across the country.
After the takeover of Beam in 2014, Suntory became the third largest spirits brand in the world. Its capacious portfolio includes brands as diverse as the iconic Jim Beam and Maker’s Mark bourbon brands; Yamazaki, Hakushu, Hibiki and Toki Japanese whisky; Teacher’s, Laphroaig and Bowmore Scotch whisky; Sauza tequila; Sipsmith and Roku gin; and Oaksmith Gold, India’s first truly international Indian whisky, to name a few.
One of the most sought-after whiskies in the world, Yamazaki 12 Years Old is Suntory’s flagship single-malt whisky and is noted for an exceptionally complex yet well-balanced fruity sweetness, which appeals to novice and experienced whisky drinkers alike.
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To the nose, it is characterised by an aroma of ripened fruit derived from peach, pineapple, grapefruit, clove, candied orange, vanilla, mizunara along with a sweet vanilla, which results from the malt whiskies being matured in white oak casks at Yamazaki. On the palate, it is complex and multi-layered with notes of coconut, cranberry and butter. The Yamazaki 12 Years Old has a sweet and long finish with a hint of ginger and cinnamon.
With limited stocks available across the world, Yamazaki 12 Years Old is a rare delight for Indian consumers who can experience it at star properties across the countries including The Lodhi and Hyatt Regency in Delhi and The Oberoi, Le Meridien, Taj Damdama, Taj City Center, and ITC Grand Bharat in Gurgaon.