Tag Archive: Hakushu


Hakushu 12 Year

Hakushu: 12 Year (Japanese Single Malt Whisky: 12 Year: 43% ABV)

Visual: Banana yellowed grain.

Viscosity: Moderate thickness and quite fast moving streaks.

Nose: Spiced pears. Apple. Light oak. Light banana. Crumble and sugar. Custard. Water adds fudge and gin.

Body: Slight alcohol. Toffee. Custard. Pears. Crumble topping and sugar. Apples. Smooth. Treacle at the back. Water removes the alcohol touch and adds a huge more amount of green fruit.

Finish: Dry. Digestives. Treacle and apple. Water turns to fudge sweetness but actually increased the alcohol feel.

Conclusion: For me this is what Hakushu should be, and what it is all about. While I enjoyed the bourbon barrel version, that expression seemed to hide a lot of the elements that make the Hakushu spirit work under the bourbon influence. Here the spirit is wide open and in full flair for your enjoyment.

It is lovely, with soft green fruit, all pears and apples and very delicately done. There is a small amount of alcohol burn neat, but that vanishes with even the barest drops of water. Furthermore there is a sweet touch, the custard and toffee mixing with crumble topping. The imagery is plain to see, combining perfectly to give a gentle fruity dessert dram.

Too much water actually hurts the whisky, delicate as it is, and too much water is a surprisingly low amount. Add the water drop by drop to take off the burn and once that is gone add no more. Any more water actually adds an alcohol air and hurts the finish.

If you don’t make that mistake then you have a lovely gentle, but full of intricate flavour, whisky. It is possibly the best expressions of green fruit in a whisky I have encountered. Admittedly, currently that is a small range, but still. I would call it one of the best of the Japanese whiskies I have tried, dessert like and distinct, it is a delight.

Background: I drank the Hakushu 12 year a while back, and it was enjoying that which led me to buy Hakushu bourbon barrel. Seeing that The Tasting Rooms had it available again I decided to get myself a measure and do a full tasting note on it this time. For some reason I can never seem to get an in focus shot of a whisky bottle while I am out an about, and never notice until I get back. Ah well.

Hakushu Bourbon

Hakushu: Bourbon Barrel (Japanese Single Malt Whisky: No age Statement: 48.2% ABV)

Visual: Yellowed gold.

Viscosity: Quite fast thick steaks.

Nose: Apples. Toffee. Strong alcohol. Dessert pastry. Pears. Grain fields. Water mutes to cooked apples.

Body: Pear drops. Lime. Strong alcohol feel rises. Apple crumble. Toffee and caramel. Oak. Water soothes the fire. Also bigger pear and sweet caramel with water, still some noticeable alcohol. More water makes smoother toffee and no fire.

Finish: Oak. Vanilla. Cream. Toffee apple. Becomes fruity with water, the pear holding out from the body now. More toffee and less oak. Salted toffee and lots of it come out with more water.

Conclusion:  Considering my prior experience with Hakushu, that of a very smooth, light and very green fruit dominated whisky, this bourbon barrel expression proved to be an interesting twist. The twelve year was very nice, and led me to try this first a few weeks back.  The first experience was of it being a bit rough and fiery. However the intervening weeks since I opened the bottle seemed to have helped, and as I sit to review the whisky it seems to be a subtly different beast.

Now, neat it still has too much damn burn, but the pear drop flavour that I associated with the twelve year comes out nicely, braced by an unsubtle toffee bourbon sweetness. The aroma is very crisp sweet dessert, very well done, but for the body you can’t take too long appreciating it neat before it becomes overpowered by the fire.

So, we quickly mover onto the water play, and unfortunately even a little bit kills the aroma, however it also helps sooth the fire and makes the toffee influence much more graceful and less brash.

Even more water added makes the fire vanish and leaves a smooth toffee front with the pear and apple now backing rather than leading the flavours. Here the whisky is more classy, though not as much as the 12 year. Though interesting it seems the pure bourbon influence is too brash for such a subtle graceful whisky.

This still has many of the lovely elements, especially the great fruitiness, but it seems the bourbon influence is not the best match. In fact, this is probably the purest I have ever seen a bourbon flavour come through in a whisky a fact that is interesting to but to the whisky’s best advantage.

So, it has a good base, especially with water. It is a bit oil and water in how the flavours mix, in that both the fruit and the bourbon are nice, but they do not mix as much as stand out as two distinct elements in the whisky.

Rough in places but the quality still shines through despite that.

Background: While I hadn’t picked up any whisky while I was in Japan, due to high prices, I am a big fan of their single malts. I recently tried their 12 year Hakushu which was very pleasant, and since I had been give a gift voucher a while back by Paul, I decided to use it at the tasting rooms to pick up a bottle of this expression, aged solely in bourbon casks. It’s a limited run expression best I know, and since Hakushu tends to have lighter fruitier flavours I was interested to see what a pure bourbon take on it would be like.

Hakushu 1989 TWE 10th Anniversary Sherry cask . (Japanese Whisky: Single Cask Single Malt: 20 years Old: 62% ABV)

Disclaimer: tasted at a whisky show, this was a comparatively short measure so the tasting note is similarly reduced as I did not get time to contemplate the full range. However I still felt it worth sharing my thoughts on these whiskys I would otherwise have been unable to experience.

Visual: Deep rum red with warm brown depths.

Viscosity: Many, many fast forming streaks.

Nose: Sherry and red wine. Dry grapes. Not subtle but powerful.

Body: Very harsh alcohol punch as was to be expected. Without a touch of water most other notes are hidden. With the water it opens up with delicious trifle like notes and spicy richness. Again unsubtle but powerful.

Finish: Initial dry wood, tongue gets numb if taken at its raw strength. Surprisingly airy fields and woods develop with water for a more rounded end to this powerful number.

Conclusion: A fiery powerful sherry cask expression with simplicity and great power. It definitely needs water to appreciate and brings in everything fast and heavy. Not one that takes a long time to reveal its charm. An appealing if overpowering drink that will never be the most complex but will be appreciated.

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