Once upon a time, the Hakushu 18 year was a favourite – an excellent example of exquisite balance with complexity and a touch of smoke to make it interesting. Then the price rose to ridiculous levels and availability went from challenging to near impossible.
With our original group, we taste blind, so our experience is influenced only by our reactions not any other element… hence we had no clue we were about to experience a Hakushu NAS avatar picked up in Japan.
Here is what we found:
- Nose – Quite vibrant, fresh, clean, light citrusy lemon, lots of perfumes, tropical fruits, very sweet… as it opened started to take on a musky quality, then quite woodsy – particularly pine – like walking through a temperate forest, coriander seeds… a bit mossy
- Palate – As the 1st whisky of the evening, the initial sip was bitter, then became sugar sweet, light and dry, cereals, with a nice gentle spice, dry currents, slight resin, while it lacked body, it sat nicely mid palate
- Finish – Short and sweet with a hint of nuts
- Water – While not needed, helped open it up slightly to reveal dry coconut, and the slightly nutty element shifted to nutty biscuits
Overall we found this an exceedingly ‘friendly’ whisky, absolutely no harshness, very smooth. Light, uncomplicated, enjoyable in its way.
Speculation ran against it being Scottish and Japan was mentioned but it didn’t quite fit the profile of familiar offerings. We found it quite ‘youthful’ and possibly matured in white oak barrels.
And the reveal… Hakushu?!? Where was the light dancing peat? The complexity?
Has the Japanese whisky ‘bubble’ burst? Has the price surpassed quality? While still ‘well constructed’ where is the ‘soul’ that tipped the whisky from being ordinary to extraordinary?
Just to compare, what do the folks over at Suntory have to say about this Hakushu?
Fresh with citric notes.
- Colour – Light gold
- Nose – Peppermint, melon, cucumber
- Palate – Yuzu, grapefruit, lemon thyme
- Finish – Refreshing, subtle smoke
Can’t argue with most except the smoke… clearly it was too subtle for us!
Other whiskies sampled that evening include:
- India – Paul John Bold Batch #4 (2016) 46%
- Italy – Puni Alba 3 year Batch #2 (2015) 43%
- Highland – Clynelish 15 year (2001/2016) Refill Sherry 54% (G&MP)
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