Yoichi 20

Yoichi 20
The Yoichi 20 used to be the oldest malt in the distillery’s core range. I say “used to be” because it has been discontinued (and it never made it to the US). As you are probably aware, there is a tremendous shortage of aged Japanese whisky. Between declining stocks and sharply rising prices, quality aged Japanese whisky is more and more out of the reach of regular drinkers. Which is not to say that the Yoichi 20 was ever affordable. Even four years ago it was well north of $200 for a bottle. Keep in mind that at that time you could still find the Yamazaki 18 in the neighbourhood of $100. This is probably due to the fact that in 2008 a 1987 vintage edition of the Yoichi 20 won a major award, right around the time that Japanese whisky began to become hot. Pretty much every release since has received rave reviews, though it’s not always easy to tell non-vintage releases apart*. Anyway, I’ve long wanted to try it and am glad to be able to through a sample swap.

*Or to figure out what proportion of the raves received by Japanese whiskies, more generally, stems from the excitement around them. You could say the same for Amrut a couple of years ago and, more recently, Kavalan.

Yoichi 20 (52%; from a sample received in a swap)

Nose: Rich fruit (apricot, plum) along with spicy wood, toffee and light maple syrup. The wood is maybe a little too prominent at first. Let’s see if it calms down with time. In the meantime some citrus joins the apricot and plum (orange peel) and there’s some butterscotch too. Yes, with time the wood does become a little less obtrusive. The whole also becomes more earthy (mossy, mushroomy) and there’s more gunpowder and some wood smoke. With more time still, the butterscotch/toffee notes expand further. Water pushes the wood back further and brings out more of the bright fruit.

Palate: Leads with some gunpowder and then there’s a flash of sharp’ish wood before the fruit comes pouring in (all the same stuff from the nose). A lot more spice on the second sip (cinnamon, a bit of rye) but it’s in nice balance with the rest. A hint of smoke. Takes a sweetish turn into the finish. With more time the fruit gets more expressive (apricot mostly) but so does the wood. Less woody with water but also less integrated.

Finish: Medium. Sweet and spicy. Not a whole lot of change with time. Longer with water and the brighter notes from the nose and palate hang around too.

Comments: This was very nice and very Highland Park in many respects, with the apricot, balanced sherry and light smoke. It reminded me more of this single cask Yoichi 23 than any of the other (not very many) Yoichis I’ve had. As with that one, I liked the nose most of all; there’s a bit too much spicy wood on the palate and finish for my taste. Still, very nice but I think $140 is probably the high end of my ceiling for this, which means I will never be buying a bottle even if it ever comes back.

Rating: 88 points.

Thanks to Gimmeadram for the sample!

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