Bliss in a Barrel

Cask Strength Art for the Whisk(e)y aficionado

The Blue Whale: Yamazaki 18-Year vs. 12 Year April 13, 2012

Filed under: Bars,Japanese Whisky — L.T. Do @ 6:17 am

There’s a little hidden jazz bar in LA that’s located in the heart of Little Tokyo called The Blue Whale.  For those who are serious about jazz , I’ve heard this is an ideal place to see great musicians here.  At any rate, they were serving whisky at the bar, and I saw the Yamazaki 18-Year sitting on a shelf.  Yamazaki 18 Year, huh?   I’ve seen this bottle run for about $90 at some stores.  When I ordered this whisky, the bartender poured this spirit inside an 8 ounce glass, the kind of glass you’d see at small diners, where they pour fresh orange juice into it.  The bartender poured aroughly 6 ounces of whisky into this cup and charged me about $16.   Usually, if you go to popular bars and order a shot that is bottled for $90,  they’ll charge you about $24 for 2 ounces, if not more.  This may sound like a back-handed compliment, but when you go to a bar that isn’t popular with consumers ordering whisky, there’s a chance that a bartender will give you a healthy pour.  In other cases, if a bartender isn’t privy to the price of a bottle and you see him free-pouring a drink, there’s a good chance he’ll give you a healthy pour as well.  That’s why I think it’s great to take a break from “crafted bars” or “popular hot spots” because you can great a great deal.

In terms of comparing the Yamazaki 12-Year with the Yamazaki 18-Year, I think the 12-Year is far much more exciting than the 18 -Year.  Although the 12-Year is milder than the 18-year, in the sense that there’s less astringency and peppercorn spices, the flavor profile of this beverage is more exciting; you get a cluster of raspberry fruit notes that is laced with an overtone of caramel essence that hovers at the nasal cavity.  Simultaneously, the flavour shifts and you get a slow, steady acceleration of peppercorn spices two-thirds of the sip, and the flavour falls back and recedes into raspberry notes again.  The profile of the 12-year moves in a cyclical manner like cherry blossoms wavering in the wind. As far as the 18-Year, I was greeted with plum notes, but the flavour of the oak barrels were too dominant for me; it was like chewing on dried bark.  All I got was wood notes.  It was pretty earthy, but to each his own.

All I have to say is, the Japanese ain’t fuckin’ around with their whisky.  Their craft is absolutely remarkable and exciting.  I very much admire Mr. Masataka Taketsura, the “father of Japanese whisky,” since he studied applied chemistry and studied the art of distillation in Scotland to perfect his craft.   Hats of to Mr. Taketsura, since he’s created that Yamazaki series, Hibiki and, my personal favorite, Nikka.