Spirit Review: The Hakushu 12-Year-Old Single Malt Whisky

For fans of single malt whisky, there’s a new must-taste bottling this holiday season: The Hakushu 12 Year Old (produced by the excellent Suntory), one of the most exciting spirits I’ve tasted in months, and yet another reason all of us should make the most out of exploring the remarkable whiskies of Japan.
This particular gem is likely to be both familiar and revelatory to fans of great single malts, and I cannot recommend it strongly enough as a delicious addition to all whisky-lovers’ collections.
In appearance, it lacks the darker amber tones you might expect from a 12-year-old whisky. But don’t fret: Once you get your nose in the glass you’ll discover an entire world of character, enticing on both sensory and intellectual levels. The first thing you’ll notice is the gentle aroma of peat, but once you acclimate yourself to that, you’ll find a whole universe beneath it, from smoke to sea air to something akin to dried apricots. The palate follows suit, its intensity balanced out by stunning smoothness and flavors that unfurl like a flower: A nod in the direction of green tea, dried stone fruit, sweet apple, pear, and a hint of smoky spice. These all come to a graceful conclusion with a finish redolent of coconut, marzipan, and sweet grapefruit skin. This is remarkably complex, alive with character and personality yet carried on an almost lacy structure. Its delicacy makes it a perfect introduction for budding single-malt connoisseurs, and its complexity will pique (and maintain) the interest of even avowed whisky aficionados. It’s a haunting, serious single malt, utterly delicious and difficult to stop sipping.
[Note: Photo courtesy of suntory.com.]