When it comes to Japanese whisky, Yamazaki is one of the best distilleries to know. The distillery has been around since 1923 when Suntory founder Shinjiro Torii essentially kick-started the Japanese whisky revolution. That said, the distiller's most famous and popular offering, its Single Malt whisky, didn't come out until 1984.
Still, that was nearly 40 years ago. Now, House of Suntory has released a limited-edition collection of single malts to honor the whisky that made it famous.
Called the Tsukuriwake Selection, this collection of whiskies include four single malts, each of which touch upon what makes its original Single Malt the stalwart Japanese whisky that it is. Tsukuriwake Selection includes Puncheon, Peated Malt, Spanish Oak and Mizunara expressions, allowing for drinkers to isolate their favorite part of Yamazaki Single Malt and enjoy it on its own.
“What excited me most about this launch is that just one year before the 100th anniversary of Suntory Whisky, we can finally share the full story behind our Tsukuriwake way of whisky making, which was born from the Founding House of Japanese Whisky,” Shinji Fukuyo, Suntory's fifth-generation chief blender, says in a press release. “The 2022 Yamazaki limited-edition Tsukuriwake Selection honors the fact that greatness comes from diversity. And in doing so, we unveil what truly makes Yamazaki Single Malt Whisky the authority of Japanese whisky.”
When Torii founded Yamazaki nearly a century ago, he hired Masataka Taketsuru to run its whiskey-making operation. As a Scottish-trained distiller, Taketsuru helped to infuse some of his Scotch-making sensibilities into this new frontier of Japanese whisky, while experimenting with various grains, wash backs, distillation methods, casks and blending techniques to make Japanese whisky something all its own.
Each of the bottles from the Tsukuriwake Selection will be released in the U.S. in June, with the line having already been released in Japan in 2020. Each expression clocks in at 48 percent ABV, with a suggested retail price of $450 — save for the Mizunara expression, which has a suggested retail price of $620.
According to Yamazaki, Spanish oak is what gives its single malt its depth and mature fruity notes. The Spanish oak imparts a deep reddish color to the whisky, offering dried stone fruit flavors aromas and a rich, buttery mouthfeel.
Any smoke you can discern from Yamazaki Single Malt comes from the addition of peated malt. For the Tsukuriwake Selection, the Peated Malt expression has just a slight smokiness to it, unlike the Islay Scotch peat bombs you may be familiar with.
Mizunara oak is native to Japan, and it's what gives Japanese whisky its signature woody flavors — which can explain why so many non-Japanese distilleries have been trying to get their hands on the rare oak. The Mizunara expression offers, what the brand calls, "distinctive Japanese spiciness and incense-like flavor of sandalwood and agarwood."
Yamazaki calls Puncheon the "heart" of Yamazaki Single Malt, as the Puncheon cask malt whiskies are what make up the delicate base of the popular whisky. For this expression, malts are aged in puncheons, which were made by Suntory from American oak.
The love, the lure and the legality of Japanese whisky, as well as the bottles you can actually find and buy.