I am a big fan of all the Hakushus I’ve tried (not very many): the 12 yo, the Heavily Peated (not the one released in the US but the original at 48%) and the Bourbon Barrel. I’d always wanted to buy a bottle of the 18 yo as well but failed to do so before the prices of Japanese whisky went through the roof—it’s not available in the US and in the UK now runs about £160 which is way more than I am willing to pay for 18 yo whisky. And so I’m very glad to be able to try it now through a sample swap. I don’t really know anything about how this is made or composed—if you do, please write in below.
Hakushu 18 (43%; from a sample received in a swap)
Nose: Quite fruity at first with apricot and orange peel, but notes of light caramel and toffee soon emerge as well. Some wood polish/over-ripe banana after that. Gets sweeter as it sits, and with more time all the notes marry together. Water makes the nsoe a little muskier/sweatier and also a little grainier.
Palate: Much more austere on the palate with a minerally, peppery note leading off and continuing into oak (not tannic) and a bit of citrus at the end. I’m sure peat is the source of that minerally, peppery note but this is not reminiscent of smoke as much as of a nippy olive oil. Nice mouthfeel at 43%. On subsequent sips there’s more fruit (as on the nose, but not as much of it) and the wood gets just a bit louder. Water makes it sweeter but also emphasizes the pepper.
Finish: Medium-long. The citrus that was emerging on the palate expands and then melds with the pepppery, minerally note that returns. Water extends the finish.
Comments: The contrast between the more lush nose and the more austere palate at the beginning is very interesting—almost like getting two malts for one. I quite liked this but, on the whole, I am more than fine with not having a full bottle–in fact, I’m not sure that I like it better than the 12 yo! I do have another sample of it so look forward to coming back to it again. Water is a 50-50 proposition—I preferred the nose neat but liked the palate and finish with water.
Rating: 85 points.
Thanks to Sku for the sample!