Yamazaki 12-Year Scotch
5.0
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Philadelphia, Pa
  • This weekend was an interesting example of the less depressing circumstances (that is to say not the one that involves six or so grown men drinking from the same 3 ounces of scotch)
  • Opening the Yamazaki 12 I first noticed the packaging
  • It looks like any other” At first I had to agree
  • In fact, I even saw a bottle of Yamazaki in a little liquor importer near my apartment when I was in Rome a few months back and, way up on the shelf, between a couple mismatched whiskeys and bourbons and amidst thousands of different craft beers, I found myself asking Mr
  • Overall, here is the average breakdown for the complete Yamazaki 12 experience

    • by Albert Townshend
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      A Review of Yamazaki 12-year Scotch

      I often gravitate toward more sophisticated and classy forms of alcoholic entertainment since nothing soothes the soul and punctuates an evening better than some Frank Sinatra records on my newly purchased new-record-player-for-old-records playing in good ole’ Mono, the smell of tobacco, and a tasty whiskey or rum, served neat. It really warms the cockles of one’s heart on a surprisingly slushy October afternoon such as this one. Considering that I am a fairly broke college student, the gravitational pull to situations such as the aforementioned tends to be minimal with few such events occurring…or at least happening on a tight budget. However, when there is a chance to act like the cast of Mad Men, my friends and I tend to seize it even if that means pooling some cash to nab a few bottles of sensible spiritus frumenti to dissipate an evening rather than go to one of our well-frequented gin mills and ordering a couple different whiskeys to pass around to each other to take sips from like we would do normally. This weekend was an interesting example of the less depressing circumstances (that is to say not the one that involves six or so grown men drinking from the same 3 ounces of scotch). In doing so we came across a fantastic gem, one very old in terms of alcohols on the market nowadays that seemed to fly below my radar for quite some time and has evidently been featured in commercials as far back as the 70’s: Yamazaki (not to be confused with Street Fighter’s Ryuji Yamazaki) 12-year.

      Sitting down to sample a few cigars and a new pipe tobacco with a Dave, Jess, Wes, Aubrey and Sammy and with “The Way You Look Tonight” drifting around in the background somewhere between the old armchairs and the kitchen where I was preparing a few rustic pizzas and a charcuterie tray to pick on, we unwrapped the new liquid gold we procured moments earlier at a liquor store in Center City Philadelphia. Opening the Yamazaki 12 I first noticed the packaging. It wasn’t


      unlike any Glenfiddich, -livet, -farclas, -morangie, or Johnny Walker packaging on the market and it wasn’t long before Dave said what I was thinking: “What makes this scotch so different from the rest? It looks like any other” At first I had to agree. Aside from the distinct Japanese character on the box it was no different from any other scotch I’ve seen before…but, then again, when has that mattered? As a person who sometimes loses his mind and likes to buy his wine because it has a cool label or a funny picture (see “Fat Bastard” as an example for both the former and latter denominations) I do tend to judge books by the covers. However, one thing that I have always appreciated about a scotch is its simplicity in design. A good scotch doesn’t need a silly beer-like label to do the talking, that’s what the flavor is for.

      Jump back in time to the store and you will see that Yamazaki would not have stood out on the shelf next to the other scotches if it were not for, in the very least, the name (as the $52.00 price tag wasn’t particularly inviting to a few guys on a budget despite it’s relatively close price to The Glenlivet). How often do you see a Japanese scotch? Scotch…as is primarily Scottish liquor! I’ve come across Yamazaki in a few bars such as the L’etage (6th and Bainbridge), Mahogany (15th and Walnut), and TIME (13th and Sansome) but was never adventurous enough to try it. In fact, I even saw a bottle of Yamazaki in a little liquor importer near my apartment when I was in Rome a few months back and, way up on the shelf, between a couple mismatched whiskeys and bourbons and amidst thousands of different craft beers, I found myself asking Mr. Johnny (the Irish owner of the place) “Is…is that a Japanese scotch?”. Funny enough, even Johnny admitted to never feeling quite exploratory enough to take a sip. Regardless, with a scotch, the rule is to enjoy the proof that hides within the proverbial pudding.

      Fast forward ...


      • back to the tasting. We each poured a glass and hoped for the best as we lit up a few of the remaining Las Cabrillas cigars I brought back as a gift from my Tobacconist friend in Rome for my buddies. Before taking the first sip I was immediately struck by the fantastic smell. Aubrey described it as “Grandpa’s hugs and berries” although it resembled something a little more along the lines of malt and maybe even a little cereal or grain. It was surprising despite the initial whiff of alcohol that assailed us upon first dislodging the cap.

        The taste was just as pleasing and, to be quite honest, if one could bottle the aspects of relaxation it would taste something similar to Yamazaki 12. Some of the better words that floated around my living room included: earthy, malty, chocolatey, spicy (as in the presence of many spices…not hot), cinnamony, and Jess even pointed out a hint of, what appeared to be, honey. For the most part I had to agree. I had a heavy flavor and was extraordinarily smooth. Evidence of earthy spices such as cinnamon and chocolate combined with nice woody and grainy tones (and even something reminiscent of a black tea such as Earl Gray) made for a lovely sip. There were, indeed, hints of something sweet and vaguely reminiscent of honey that lingered on the tongue after the scotch had already been swallowed and it left the tongue dry and the mouth pleasantly numb. It had a lingering finish that lasted a few minutes until I took my next sip.

        Where most scotches could have traces of tobacco or sherry, this did not and was a wee bit sweeter than I had originally guessed it would be, although not sweet enough to be off-putting. Yamazaki’s absence of tobacco flavors made it an excellent compliment to any cigar and worked almost entirely too well with my new “Crown Royal” Cavendish I got at Holt’s earlier in the week.

        Yamazaki was a fair substitute for Glenlivet and Glenfiddich in both taste and in price (in fact, it was better

        in many ways including the after taste and aroma) and even topped my absolute favorite scotch, Oban 14, in the way “it melded with the ambiance” as Wes put it. Jess followed it by saying “for relaxing times, make it Suntory time” as a reference to Lost in Translation (a 2003 film with Bill Murray appearing in a Suntory commercial). We all laughed until the pun became eerily relevant when Dave pointed out that this scotch was, in fact, part of a long line of Suntory distilled liquors, adding an element of prestige to our whiskey break. I let the group know, that Suntory is one of the oldest liquor distilling groups in the world, starting some time in the late 1800’s by importing wine and, later, absorbing the (as I found out later) Yamazaki distillery (the very same that made our scotch) around 1923 or 1924. In fact, there are even a few commercials in which Suntory whiskeys appeared alongside such famous people as Sammy Davis Jr. in 1974, a tipsy Orson Welles, and Sean Connery in the early 90’s. The surprisingly long history came as a neat surprise for the group that evening and added the most important element of any scotch-drinking experience: good conversation.

        Overall, here is the average breakdown for the complete Yamazaki 12 experience:

        Price: $52.00 at the Chestnut Street Pennsylvania Wine and Spirits Store (no more expensive than some more common scotches). Not bad if you and a few friends want to spilt the bill.

        Availability: I haven’t often seen this scotch in the run-of-the-mill liquor store in and around Philly but I have been told there have been sightings in Delaware (at Roger Wilco’s and many liquor outlets in New Jersey shopping centers). As for getting them at a bar, any respectable whiskey bar with a large selection of whiskeys has it including TIME and Chris’ Jazz bar, L’Etage (on occasion), and Mahogany Cigar Bar.

        Packaging/Presentation: Somewhat nondescript save for it’s unique name and the fact that it is a Japanese Scotch (but don’t judge this book by its cover).

        Aroma: Nothing short of tantalizing.

        Flavor: Heavy, Smooth, spicy, earthy, and sweet.

        Aftertaste: Sweet, dry, with hints on honey.




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    The review was published as it's written by reviewer in November, 2011. The reviewer certified that no compensation was received from the reviewed item producer, trademark owner or any other institution, related with the item reviewed. The site is not responsible for the mistakes made. 272111542200430/k2311a112/11.2.11
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