Reviews #87-88: Yamazaki 12 Year and Yamazaki Distiller's Reserve

I got into Japanese whisky at exactly the wrong time: just early enough to come to love it at the pre-craze prices but just late enough to not have stocked up or tried the really good stuff. For example the day Suntory announced that Hakushu 12 was being discontinued I was able to buy out the remaining stock at a local shop but I’d not had the chance to try any of their older expressions.

Anyways that brings us to a blind taste off between the pre-craze Yamazaki 12, which is now expensive and hard to find, and the post-craze NAS Yamazaki Distiller’s Reserve to see if these replacement bottles really hold up!

Yamazaki 12 Year

Age: 12 years

Abv: 86 proof

Color: A medium amber

Price: $119.99

Yamazaki Distiller’s Reserve

Age: NAS

Abv: 86 proof

Color: A medium gold

Price: N/A (Local open bottle trade)

Sample 1 Notes

Nose: Rich,sweet and sticky with dark fruity and some floral notes.

Taste: The sherry influence is clear with it’s predominantly dark fruit notes. It also had a great, viscous mouthfeel for the proof.

Finish: Medium length with rich dark fruit and warm spice.

Reveal: Yamazaki 12 Year

Sample 2 Notes

Nose: Light and fruity with bright cherry and malt notes.

Taste: More malt and bright cherry notes.

Finish: Medium length malty finish without much else going on. A bit disappointing.

Reveal: Yamazaki Distiller’s Reserve

Conclusion

As far as the blind portion goes I honestly had no idea which was which and optimistically guessed that my preferred one, #1, was the Distiller’s Reserve which was wrong.

These were both very good whiskies but the Yamazaki 12 got downgraded from 8 due to the crazy price spike while the Distiller’s Reserve was weighed down by the sub par finish. Before the finish I was about to declare that the Distiller’s Reserve was a worthy successor in world without age statements but alas it wasn’t to be. In a world where an excellent 18 year old scotch wasn’t cheaper than Yamazaki 12 it would definitely have a place on my shelf but the Distiller’s Reserve didn’t quite make that cut.

As an aside, I’ve been comparing mouthfeels of single malts vs bourbons lately and these are both better than Buffalo Trace or Eagle Rare (the closest proof bourbons I had on hand)

Yamazaki 12 Year

7 - a solid whiskey I’d happily order at bar if they don’t have something 8+

Yamazaki Distiller’s Reserve

7 - a solid whiskey I’d happily order at bar if they don’t have something 8+

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Scale

My reviews are mostly about taste but occasionally take price into consideration generally dropping a point from whiskies in the 8-9 range that seem significantly more expensive than similar quality bottles.

10 - an all time favorite, must buy/hunt

9 - a favorite that I almost always have a bottle of on my shelf

8 - an excellent bottle I’d be happy to buy

7 - a solid whiskey I’d happily order at bar if they don’t have something 8+

6 - a decent whiskey that I don’t prefer but don’t avoid and would be fine having as a mixer or in a pinch somewhere with a poor selection

5 - I would drink it if offered and I didn’t have to pay for it

4 - Fine as a mixer, bring on the Coke Zero

3 - Maybe a mixer if I’m in pinch

2 - no thanks

1 - pouring out the bottle