Hakushu 18 year – revisiting a favourite

After packing for an impromptu trip to Amsterdam, I decided to treat myself by revisiting one of my favourite Japanese whiskies – the Hakushu 18 year.

The choice

Years ago Suntory came to Mumbai to explore the Indian market. My friend and I were introduced to their range and even from the first sip, the Hakushu whiskies stood out for me as far more exceptional than their better known Yamazaki cousins.

Since I picked up my first bottle in Singapore, the price has steadily risen. On my last trip to Tokyo, my quest was for lesser known Japanese whiskies, so I skipped re-stocking this favourite yet found even there it was inching into to the more expensive category.

There are just a few drams remaining in my last bottle and I’ve jealously guarded them… storing it now for several years.

Hakushu 18 year

Hakushu 18 year

The tasting notes

So… after such a long time, has my memory of this delightful whisky faded? Has the whisky itself stood the test of time despite its storage?

  • Nose: Vanilla sweet, fresh grass with just the lightest tickle of peat, it then warms into a deeper note of cherries, almost floral
  • Taste: More spice than I remembered, a delightful burn that reveals multiple elements – a hint of leather and smoke, perhaps plum too?
  • Finish: Even though the bottle was opened more than a year ago… the finish lingered… no harshness, a touch of smoke, a drop of honey, slightly nutty oaky elements emerged after a minute


My memories were of an exquisite nuanced whisky… one that had multiple elements and needed time to distill and describe the different notes and flavours. The fresh grass nose was more subdued than I remembered however it is no surprise to have dulled after being stored in an open bottle for so long.

Also, when I first tried the Hakushu 18, it was before I sampled Irish potstill whiskies. Sampling now, I’m reminded of Yellow Spot or Redbreast – both superb whiskies.

So is it still a favourite? Well… it would certainly remain in my recommended list however may not be a priority to replace when the last drop of this bottle is gone… more because of its current price point than preference.

Any other opinions? (aside from castigating me for storing whisky for so long!)

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Jazzy Monkey Shoulder

When I started Whisky Lady, I had a vague notion of creating a separate space for sharing more than just our monthly tasting notes from a private whisky club in Mumbai…

What better than revisiting a bottle conveniently in the cabinet?

The context

The volume of a jazzy funky beat is high, my partner’s rich baritone accompanies the sexy sax as he rehearses his last-minute substitution in a play ‘Bombay Jazz‘ for the Celebrate Bandra Festival. It is a play he normally produces rather than acts in… hence a bit of panic has set in… all the more reason to get into a more relaxed mode.

The weather in Mumbai is decidedly warm, so I was in the mood for something that I wouldn’t cringe at adding a drop or two of cool water or even – gasp! – a small ice-cube.

The choice

While we have sampled Monkey Shoulder in our monthly tasting sessions, I missed writing tasting notes on this blend of three Speyside single malts: Kininvie, Balvenie and Glenfiddich.

The name is inspired by the folks who developed a strain from turning the malting barley by hand – and for their troubles would acquire a ‘monkey shoulder‘. While the photo doesn’t do justice, there are three little monkeys on the upper right side of the bottle representing the three malts that go into the making of this blend.

It is also one of those whiskies that is relatively accessible, not hard on the pocketbook and consistently good. In this case, I picked up a bottle in Singapore on my last trip expecting to use it for the inevitable parties.

As we had a gathering recently, I already had a bottle open. It came from Batch 27, so I felt zero guilt in taking it down from the shelf to re-sample…

Jazzy play & Monkey Shoulder make a good mix!

Jazzy play & Monkey Shoulder make a good mix!

The tasting notes

So… just what did I find in revisiting William Grant’s Monkey Shoulder?

  • Nose: Citrus, sweet honey warmth, light with a hint of vanilla
  • Taste: Mild mannered, mellow and smooth, a dash of cinnamon and a prick of spice
  • Finish: While not a long-term lingerer, a delightful warmth with clove more than cinnamon

The experiment

However I wanted to experiment a little…  and did something I’d normally crinkle my noise at… I added a single small ice-cube

Aside from the relief from a little blessed cool… what did it do to the whisky?

Yes it did bring out a tinge more spice, yet Monkey Shoulder was smooth enough to not be defeated by a mere bit of melting ice… however it did dampen the nose considerably.

So I thought to experiment further… what would happen if I added back a tinge of citrus tartness with a squeeze of half a lime?

What delight! The freshness of the lime brought a new dimension…

Then what about a drop or two of Angostura bitters?

A dancing jig on the nose… citrus, sweet, with the vanilla resurfacing after being lost with the ice cube.

And now… what if I added a splash of cool soda water?

Houston! I do believe we have a cocktail! Yup… I might just offer this to someone else interested in a refreshing bright beverage.

If I had a sprig of mint, may have even thrown that in too…


On a hot sultry night, whisky cocktail and jazz make a combustible combination!

Care to share your opinion of the Monkey Shoulder? Or have a whisky cocktail to suggest? I’m clearly not completely averse to the idea…

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