The Yamazaki 12, unlike the Bourbon Barrel, is quite easily found in the US (though its price has gone up appreciably in the last year or two, perhaps to match the more recently arrived Hakushu 12). Unlike its older, and now tragically expensive sibling, the Yamazaki 18, this is not appreciably sherried. It is quite clearly a sibling of the Bourbon Barrel, and I would bet that this is mostly bourbon cask whisky as well. As to whether the difference between the two is down entirely to the extra 5% abv of the Bourbon Barrel or if there is something else that holds the Yamazaki 12 apart, I am not sure. If you know more about the composition of this whisky, please chime in in the comments.
Yamazaki 12 (43%; from my own bottle)
Nose: Polished wood, banana, vanilla. After a minute or two, the bananas get flambéed, and a spicy note also appears: rye? Quite reminiscent of light rum in some ways. As with the Bourbon Barrel, it gets fruitier with time (other than the banana, I mean): there’s some citrus in there and maybe some apricot jam. (Not a million miles from the Bourbon Barrel, on the whole.) The foundation of polished wood never goes away. Gets quite rich with time and the rye note expands as well.
Palate: A little indistinct at first and just a little too watery. Seems at first like it’s going to be sweet but turns dry and a touch astringent. Frankly, I’m not getting a terrible lot on the palate tonight: there’s a vague fruitiness, but I’ll be damned if I can figure out what it is. Okay, patience is a good thing: with more time, there’s orange peel and a hint of honey and a little more wood spice too..
Finish: Medium. Spicy with a little yeasty tingle. That yeasty spice gets a little more peppery with time, and the citrus peel hangs around longer as well.
Comments: The nose is the high point here; the contrast from the nose to the palate is striking, as the richness of the nose is not really followed through on the palate. I’m not sure if that quite qualifies as complexity but it does make it a little more interesting. It did take a little time to open up (or maybe my palate took a little more time tonight to open up) so patience is recommended.
Rating: 83 points.