Tag Archives: hakushu

Hakushu 12 Review

Producer: Suntory. Distillery: Hakushu. ABV: 43%. Age: 12 years. Price: $65-100.

Hakushu 12 is one of the few age-stated Japanese whiskies still more or less accessible on the U.S. market. It provides the peated malt for multiple blends by the Hakushu Distillery’s parent company, Suntory, including the new Suntory Toki.

The nose is both grassy and sweet. Lemon-lime and white smoke. A little cedary influence that might be a touch of Japanese Mizunara oak–though brand reps say the distillery uses very little of it in maturation due to the expense. A little salted caramel toward the end. In all, a very appealing nose: crisp but robust enough to stay interesting.

Palate: it loses some ground here. The peat is mild and pleasant, with that sweet grassiness from the nose. There’s some pear gelato, with a vein of lemon pepper too. The weakness is in the body, which is distinctly watery. The finish is something of a letdown too: on the short side, with toasted vanilla and sweet seaweed.

The Hakushu 12 is often called a must-try for Japanese whisky explorers. I’d agree–but it’s best to have a dram at a well-stocked bar before you lay out what most stores will ask for it these days, $100 or close to it.

Kanpai, friends! -BO

Suntory Toki Japanese Whisky Review

Producer: Suntory. Distilleries: Chita, Hakushu & Yamazaki. ABV: 43%. No age statement. Price: $40.

The Toki, a new offering (as of summer 2016) from Japanese whisky giant Suntory, has summer written all over it. It’s a low-priced bottling (by Japanese standards) that’s made primarily for mixing. Given the huge size of the blended whisky market relative to single malts–and the importance of the bartending community–I think that makes it a smart move on their part.

The Toki is a blend of grain whisky from Suntory’s Chita distillery with Hakushu and Yamazaki single malts, and it’s exclusive to the North American market. We don’t know the proportion of the components, but the fancy marketing patter suggests it’s at least half grain whisky:

Traditionally in Suntory blends, grain whiskies have played merely a supporting role, acting as a broth or dashi to accentuate key malts. But the unrivaled sophistication and wide range of grain whiskies produced at Suntory’s Chita distillery led [Master Blender] Shinji Fukuyo to rethink that role. He saw these whiskies, with their exquisite balance of complexity, subtlety and refinement, not as a scaffold for the heroic malt to ascend but as true heroes in their own right.

So much for managing expectations. So how’s the juice?

First impressions: it’s on the bright and honeyed side, though with more substance than I expected. Nose: honey-dipped apple, peach, and basil. A suggestion of that light Hakushu smoke. The palate has apple and apricot, and a fair amount of spice: white pepper and ginger. Very nice balance. Oak, vanilla, and spice on the finish.

Single malt lovers are split on this one, which is no surprise. I think it’s a fine summer sipper, and an excellent mixing option. Suntory, naturally, suggests their classic highball: a measure of Toki with ice, club soda on top, then a twist of citrus or a sprig of mint. A couple of those will make you wish summer lasted all year.

Kanpai, friends! -BO