Hakushu is Suntory's second distillery, constructed half a century after the Yamazaki distillery in the Japanese Southern Alps – a location which makes it one of the highest distilleries in the world.
This is The Hakushu 12 Year Old, the youngest of their aged expressions.
The nose has that sweet fruitiness that I'm coming to expect from a Japanese whisky; plenty of alcohol, fresh and light with a hint of pears. With water, the pear comes through more clearly, along with a little wood and an undercurrent of grain.
In the mouth, it's a much bigger whisky than the nose suggests; after the initial alcohol burn there's some smoke, blending nicely with the sugar sweetness and an almost buttery feel. The finish is rich but overall it manages to retain the fresh feel from the nose.
Watered, the alcohol is tamed and there's a spicier, pepper edge on the tongue. It's still sweet, and there's a fruitier feel to it too. Curiously it feels bigger, heavier in the mouth than without water – it somehow comes across as having more age.
Overall, a very tasty whisky with two distinct personalities with and without water – and unusually, I'm undecided as to which I prefer. Definitely deserving of 3.5 stars.
This review was originally published 16th January, 2013. It was last updated 1st June, 2023.