Tag Archive: Suntory

Suntory: Yamazaki Aged Umeshuu (Japan: Umeshuu: 17% ABV)

Visual: Clear gold.

Nose: Sweet plum and figgy pudding. Golden syrup. Marzipan and toasted marshmallow.

Body: Thick and syrupy. Vanilla toffee and golden syrup. Honey. Plums. Mild whisky notes. Treacle. Fig rolls. Toasted teacakes.

Finish: Plums. Toasted teacakes. Golden syrup. Marshmallows and white chocolate. Fig rolls. Raspberry yogurt. Blended whisky air. Cherries to glacier cherries.

Conclusion: Ok, I’m split on how to describe it- as there is not a huge amount of whiskyesque notes about this – but they do definitely influence the proceedings. Best thing I can say, is that if you are looking to grab this for the Yamazaki then I would say look elsewhere- even if actual Yamazaki is stupidly expensive at the moment – however if you are an Umeshuu fan who also happens to like a bit of whisky then the time in the oak, and the addition of a touch of whisky has definitely given this a different twist.

The base comes out as a slightly drier take on an Umeshuu – still quite syrupy and very thick with sweet honey and golden syrup notes but less overwhelming with a drier, toasted teacake backing note that takes this notoriously sickly drink and makes it a bit easier to drink and a touch more complex with the savoury contrast.

The oak ageing does seem to add similar to what I would expect from bourbon cask ageing for whisky – marshmallows, toasted notes, vanilla toffee and white chocolate. Nice, soft, sweet rounding notes that actually soften the more raw artificial sweetness of some umeshuus. Others I have spoken to have noticed a sherry influence, but for me that seems to tie more closely to the base umeshuu – as always I could be wrong.

So, all this way in and I’ve not mentioned the actual plums yet, whatsupwiththat right? That is a fairly big part of a plum liqueur. Well, while it takes a few sips to show mid body, it is instantly there top and tail – lots of plums, figs and other varied dark fruits in general. Then as you get acclimatised to the sweetness it shows mid body as well. The oddest note’s a raspberry yogurt thickness that actually reminds me of Yamzaki 12, but I could just be being easily influenced by knowing the drink’s backstory.

I’m far from a Umeshuu expert, but this sits just on the edge of the right side of too sickly and has a good amount of range to really enjoy, more than I associate with my other experiences with this style of drink. Sweet plums over toasted texture dryness with whisky high notes makes an altogether good experience by me.

Background: This is something brought back from Honk Kong after I saw it in the airport’s duty free. Glad I did – looks like this doesn’t have an official release in the UK and import prices are insane. At the airport it came in at around 35 quid (give or take depending on exchange rate) which was much more reasonable. Anyway, what is it? Something that turns up very rarely on this blog – Umeshuu aka plum liqueur. I only rarely do notes on similar things, but this has a special twist that makes it, maybe, just about applicable for the blog. The drink has been aged in toasted ex Yamazaki whisky casks, and mixed with some Yamazaki that had been aged in Umeshuu casks, to make for a very incestuous drink relationship. Ok, yeah, I don’t normally do whisky liqueurs either- I’m mainly do this one for my own enjoyment. Anyway, I’m guessing this is being made as a gimmick release to let them get as many releases out of their limited stock. Yamazaki is highly in demand and a lot is being held back for aged releases so current releases are very tight. Well, it worked, I bought one.


Hibiki 17

Suntory: Hibiki 17 Year (Japanese Blended Whisky: 17 Years: 43% ABV)

Visual: Clear darkened gold.

Viscosity: Slow thin streaks.

Nose: Stewed apricots and dates. Marzipan and plums. Crumble topping. Rich. Water brings out oak.

Body: Smooth. Apricots. Golden syrup. Light oak and bamboo. Milk chocolate behind. Dry underneath. Water makes more fuller bodied but also much more noticeable alcohol.

Finish: Milk chocolate. Orange liquore. Raisins. Light oak. More oaken with water and potatoes comes out. Bean sprouts.

Conclusion: Most water goes better with a drop of water, this goes doubly true for blended whisky. It tends to help the whisky open up and takes off the alcohol burn. That said, don’t add water to this whisky. Not one drop. Seriously.

Neat it is as smooth as you could ever need, and with all the lovely elements fully on view. The aroma can be detected across the table, and yet is not overly punchy up close. There is a rich and dessert like smell, full of stewed fruit and sweetness. This lovely sugary sweet delicacy of an aroma is just murdered by water. Don’t do it.

The body is a lighter feel than any single malt you care to mention, not my preferred texture style, but I will concede on the technical scale it is well done. The flavour on the other hand needs no such reservation, it is lovely smooth fruit and sweetness that has a light touch and yet full character.  Again, worse with water, the alcohol becomes more burning and hides the flavours behind it.

The finish finds you with around off of smooth chocolate and liquore than all vanishes with water, replaced with a vegetable and oak remain.

So, if I haven’t got my point across yet, without water this is great. Dessert like and slips down remarkably easy. The over smoothness of this kind of blended whisky works against it for me, but I am aware that for many it is a benefit. This is an easy going and yet flavoursome whisky and very impressive.

Just don’t abuse it with water. Please.

Background: I didn’t get the chance to try too much whisky in Japan. Mainly because the price was higher than the UK in most places, and the range about the same. So, when I got home I decided to go for a bit of the hibiki. Drunk at the Tasting Rooms. While I can be wary of blended whisky the Japanese really seem to have the nack for it.

Suntory: Hibiki 12 (Japanese Blended Whisky: 12 Year: 43% ABV)

Visual: Pale Gold

Viscosity: A couple of fast streaks, but in general surprising slow and slightly thick.

Nose: Pencil shavings, sweet liqueur and plum. Fresh potpourri. Noticeably smooth. Water adds shortbread and completely nullifies the already mild alcohol. Celery.

Body: Spiced blood orange, toffee and vanilla. Malted drinks. Rum soaked raisins. Water brings out a biscuit style and sweetness whilst letting the rum like elements roam. Very smooth. Celery again. Plums lightly arise.

Finish: Lots of chocolate and chocolate orange. Light syrup, celery. Oysters. Comparatively simple.

Conclusion: So here we go, trying a blended whisky, the first for a while on this blog. A very reputable example of blending as well.  Now normally blended whisky isn’t my cup of tea but this sounded interesting enough to give a try.

Well its high quality, you can tell that instantly, and still very distinctively a blend.  It has that slightly overproduced feel, all smooth edges and pop inoffensiveness compared to the often rough punk and indie edges to a single malt.  So its not trying to duplicate the malts, it stands upon its style very deliberately.

This does not mean it isn’t good however, for all blended is often used as an insult, it’s just a different beast. It is very smooth, spicy but with a chocolate finish. As suggested before it is all rounded edges and smooth curves managed in a very sensual way.

The oddest element is the repeating feel of celery within it (possible bamboo could be a call to, but I do not have enough experience in that to say). Very unusual, but not disconcerting.

It’s balanced, with subtle fruit, and lends nice mix of textures and tastes. Overall a well made whisky that only suffers due to my preference for rougher edges.

Background: Presented in a wonderful bottle, with 24 facets symbolising the hours of the day and old Japanese calendar (or so it says) and a nice little booklet explaining its background it does a lot to establish good first impressions.  Apparently the oldest whisky in this is 30 years old and the whisky is partially aged in umeshuu  (plum wine) casks.  Well regarded in general, and I’ve been meaning to get hold of a bottle for a while. As mentioned I tend to prefer single malts over blended whisky.

%d bloggers like this: