Hakushu 12 was the second Japanese whisky that I ,[Scotch], had purchased after the Hibiki 12 year. Without knowing anything about Hakushu, I jumped right in head first thinking that it was going to be the sweet floral symphony that the Hibiki was. Boy was I wrong, but boy were my eyes opened to the Japanese way of handling peat.
C: A golden pale honey, syrupy and coating as I swirl the glass.
N: Very soft lemony, piney peat. A pine sap being reduced down over a fire to create a resinous pitch. The nose is like walking into a Japanese tea shop, amongst all the bamboo accessories, and lifting each of the tea jars to sample a smell. across the street someone is starting a fire using the wood that they chopped from a neighboring forest, covered in moss, still green. Pear skins, and a mixture of plums and raspberries that are very unripe, very green. It’s hard to explain but the peat, as subtle as it is, is powerful and similar to that of an older peated whisky. Very light vanilla sweetness in the background. Fresh, green and like stepping out of a spearmint gum commercial.
P: The peat is apparent but quickly takes a back seat to green pear and crisp green apple notes. Smoked barley and spices dance around the peat, weaving a delicate strand. Wood sour and vegetal notes. Malted barley similar to The Balvenie style of being very subtle, while still being very pronounced. A slight spice develops around the outer portions of my tongues. The smoke intensifies, not like a billowing flame though, more like a blown out candle.
F: The finish is mainly smoke and soft edged spices. This is a very mature whisky for the 12 years the label presents. Slightly tannic and mouth puckering near the back of my mouth, reminding me of dried lemon rind. The peat presents itself again but only as a remnant of what was initially present. Waving at you, as you leave, reminding you of the good time you just had.
Hakushu reminds me of the restraint and the perfect execution that the Japanese command over things. Just google Japanese Woodworking and you’ll know what I’m talking about. Like a perfectly carved puzzle box, form one piece of wood. Sometimes it’s not about blowing people away with the high PPM of peat you have in your whisky. Sometimes it’s about how it all comes together.