April 6, 2008

Yamazaki Single Malts

April Dowd photo

Forget the traditional stance, that Scotch whisky can be made only in Scotland. Japan's Suntory distillers are making deeper and deeper inroads into the booming Asian Scotch market and trying to get U.S. consumers to pay attention as well.

Yamazaki 12- and 18-year-old Single Malts:

Sampling whiskies on their own is one thing. Sampling them in a venue crowded with competitors is another. I gained a stronger appreciation for Suntory's offerings when trying them at the recent Whisky Fest 2008 in Manhattan where they were offered cheek-to-jowel with several dozen others labels.

The Yamazaki 18 earned the platinum medal (97 points) in 2006 from the Beverage Testing Institute as a follow-up to its double gold at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition the previous year. It's a complex, smooth and creamy single malt that smacks of floral notes balanced off by hints of fig, dark chocolate and burnt sugar. I found it something I wanted to immediately go off with to savor.

The 12 year old expression, a 93-point Beverage Testing Institute gold medalist, has an almost ethereal presence, touched by notes of honey, flowers, a bit of peat and anise, and then complementing elements of spiciness and toastiness from the mizunara -- Japanese oak.

The 18 retails in the $90 range and the 12 for about $40.

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