Last April, I panned The Hakushu 12 year old. The whisky I'd sampled was shockingly ugly, full of notes of cheesy-beefy-flatulence and a kitchen gas leak. I say "shockingly" because The Hakushu 12 had received raves from a number of folks I respect. In fact the word on the whisky street was so positive that I going to buy a whole bottle of it blindly; I even price-shopped it for two months. But the Master of Malt sample of Hakushu that I tried convinced me of the opposite, the whisky was disappointing.
But, as I ended my report, I wrote: "I wouldn't mind giving it another spin someday......just in case."
In the late fall, I tried it again at a OC Scotch Club event. And it was......really good. This round of whisky came not from a sample bottle but directly from a newly opened 750mL. President Bob of the OC Scotch Club awesomely allowed me to steal away with a 1 ounce sample of my own.
On New Year's Eve, the sampled was consumed.
Producer: Suntory Whisky
Age: 12 years
Maturation: mainly Bourbon Hogsheads
Alcohol by Volume: 43%
The color is a bright light gold. The nose leads with doused kindling, soil, dried apricots, and light sweet wine. There's a cleaning solvent note in there, but in a good way! After a few minutes, a subtle green leafy note arises, possibly spinach. The palate is a peated confection: vanillins, brown sugar, and sweet cherries. It's very creamy, vanilla ice creamy in fact. There are some ashes and a touch of salt. It finishes first sweet, then peat. Peat ashes again. Sugared fruit, a little salt. It's extensive and warm considering its low-ish ABV.
WITH WATER --
The nose loses its prettiness, gaining weight and malt spirit. Some cocoa, tree bark, and vegetal peat too. Some of the infamous gassy edge starts to peek through. The palate becomes simpler. Vanilla, malt, mild peat, notebook paper, and fruit cocktail juice. It finishes briefly, with that fruit cocktail juice character, a little peat and vanilla following.
I recommend this neat. Period. Keep the water out, please.
This is the quality I had hoped for, originally. The odd sample probably kept me from buying a bottle. The Hakushu has gotten much more difficult to find since then. My scathing review likely resulted in a worldwide recall by Suntory. ;-)
Anyway, Hakushu, my apologies. I was led astray. Thou art good.
May this new year bring many more happy discoveries, especially in places we'd never expect to find them.
Availability - Some liquor specialists
Pricing - $50-$60
Rating - ★★★½