Today I have two very special whiskies that I tasted last year.
I have mentioned before that I am attempting to complete my edition of Ian Buxton’s 101 Whiskies to Try Before You Die and one of the hardest to get hold of and most expensive in there was the Hibiki 30yo.
And I’ve always wanted to try the Yamazaki 25.
Though, to perfectly honest, I didn’t expect to enjoy these whiskies quite as much as I did. I was really expecting to be saying that these are over-oaked, over-Sherried and under-proofed. I wanted to say that the hype is all noise and you can live out your lives in the contentment of knowing that you’ll never have to hunt these down to try them.
Unfortunately, that just isn’t the case…
Hibiki 30 43%
Colour: Dark Gold
Nose: Ridiculously complex. Standing in a carpenter's workshop with loads of different types of wood being worked on, polished oak, pine, as well as loads of others that I couldn't begin to guess at, Acacia honey, leather and cigar box, complex oils, dry forest floor. Menthol and complex herbs and subtle spice, spearmint, freshly crushed mint, chocolate powder too. The balance here is insanely good.
Taste: Dry arrival, incredible balance and silky texture, then more powerful with leather and chilli and ginger spices and old honey, delicate oils, evolves through endless layers. Dried leaves, there is some smoke in there too but its interwoven into the fabric of everything else, dried apple. Slightly sweeter into the finish with very old brandy.
Finish: Long length. Softer, more delicate, very subtle earthy flavours then the most incredibly delicate oak you can imagine. Moving.
Blended? Really, with what? 5% grain whisky? Seriously, this stuff is kinda magical. The heft, weight and poise of this is exquisite for a blended whisky.
Yamazaki 25 43%
Colour: Dark Amber
Nose: Complex herbal and Sherried nose, wood sap and marker pens, pine forest aromas, sweet orange, orange peel, something light and ethereal yet also heavy with burnt thyme, pine smoked ham?, Lapsang Souchong and Ginseng tea, honey comb, some forest floor, something medicinal perhaps? Even more complex as it opens up.
Taste: Full on from the off (despite the 43%) with a great balance of sweet and dry, pine and sap, orange and oak, cherry and cough sweets, very oily mouthfeel- chewy, very old Sherry, dry dark chocolate, raisin and prune, something perfumed then some very slight rubber into the finish.
Finish: Long length. A long slow bleed of sweet and dry, some oak and Sherry, tobacco and all sorts of chocolates. Stunning finish.
Not quite the equal of the also stunning Hibiki 30 but damn close. I really wanted to believe that this would be a little tired and over Sherried like the 18yo but no, alas not.
If the 2013 Sherry Cask is something like this then I can see why Jim Murray would have given his whisky of the year to it.
Japanese Reviews #25-#26
Whisky Network Reviews #997-#998
Network Average: 75.2
Best Score: 94
Worst Score: 12
60-64 Just About OK
65-69 Ok to Good
75-79 Very Good
Full Disclosure Disclaimer: I currently work as the Global Brand Ambassador for Penderyn Distillery. The views expressed here are purely my own and do not reflect the views of Penderyn Distillery or The Welsh Whisky Company. I try to maintain as much objectivity as I can but feel free to take my reviews with as big a pinch of salt as you like. Furthermore, my rating scale is NOT based on a Parker type wine scoring scale or a school/college/university % or A-F grade score. You can find more on my scoring here. I apologise for any seemly low or 'bad' scores given with my system and I am sorry I can't say only nice things. Please keep in mind that I am ethically compromised and I am unable to produce 100% unbiased reviews.