So here it goes. Before I go into full year-review-mode I wanted to get this under my belt so I can add it to my lists, if it turns out Jim Murray is on to something. He called this his whisky of the year 2014 and ranked it highest in his most recent Whisky Bible.
I must say I stopped buying the Whisky Bible some years ago and have never done anything with his ratings, but I do sometimes value his tasting notes. Those have helped my guide my purchases in the heyday of my whisky enthusiasm.
His rating, the actual score he gives a dram, are obviously arbitrary. That’s the whole point. What I dislike is that it’s just his score and there is no counterweight. No general consensus. Also, he kind of ruined it to me when he kept putting Ardbeg on the top spot in the years following his involvement with the distillery.
Also, what doesn’t help is the way he acts when hosting tastings. I’ve heard it from many folks through the years, but Oliver Klimek wrote it down nicely. His rampant complaining about sulphur in whisky has gotten quite old too, so I more or less stopped reading his writings. Another nail in the coffin was the 95 point rating of Jameson. The regular Jameson that is. Seems a bit much to me. It’s a nice dram, but just that, nice.
So, this Yamazaki then. I got a sample from Maltstock Teun, so huge thanks there, since I missed out on it when it was still gathering dust on the shelves of shops. Prices have soared since it was ranked #1 publicly. I still get to try it thanks to Teun, and I love him for it.
Yamazaki is a hugely popular distillery with annual price increases doing nothing to tame the speed at which their whiskies sell. In the last three years or so, the price tag on their staple 18 year old has more than doubled and it’s still going strong. Contrary to many other distilleries that try to sneak in their price increases they neatly announce them beforehand. I’m not sure if that is because of increased sales just before the increase hits, or just the normal way of doing business in the land of the rising sun.
There’s sherry for sure. And lots of oak. It feels slightly less woody than their 18 year old I think. It’s probably a bit younger. There’s a slight vegetal / savory note to it as well. A very light bitterness as well as the sweetness of dates and dried plums. A tiny hint of struck matches. It is a quite sweet scent in general.
The palate is surprisingly smooth at first with a minor bite of chili pepper coming right after that. The oak is rather prominent and makes for a very dry mouth feel. The sherry is slightly more spicy than on the nose with ginger and some hot cinnamon flavors leading the way. The sweetness clings to your tongue too, mostly on the sides. It has the same fruitiness as I found on the nose. Dates and dried prunes. Maybe candied cherries.
The finish suddenly shows hints of leather and much more cherries than on the palate. It’s like it’s a full migration from the palate to here. But this also makes it slightly inconsistent in my book. Not necessarily in a bad way now, since all parts are rather lovely. The finish lasts long with the oak being present, but pushed back to the cherries and Christmas cake spiciness (Christmas cake, how appropriate!).
So, yes, this is a tasty dram. But no, it’s not the best whisky of the year to me. It’s not even in my top five or top ten. This might be my skepticism taking a step forward, but I think I’ve had quite some better drams this year. Also in the same price category.
The cherries on the finish are lovely, but I would have loved seeing more of them on the palate and on the nose. The vegetal note of the nose doesn’t come back on the palate and therefore the whisky just shifts once too often for me.
Still, if I could get this for the original price of some € 80 (I think I remember it costing this) I might be tempted. It’s worth that. Currently prices have skyrocketed to some € 700 or more with samples being offered for sale at € 50 per 3cl. That’s just a couple of notches too far.
But those cherries on the finish are lovely.
Yamazaki Sherry Cask 2013, 48%
Thanks to Teun for the sample!