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Hakushu, Yamanashi, Japan
Constructed back in 1973, exactly 50 years after the establishment of Yamazaki, Suntory’s other major distillery, Hakushu has an interesting history. The distillery was created to offer a different style of whisky to Yamazaki, which is located in a lowland region of Japan and uses hard-water to make an unpeated spirit. Hakushu’s spirit is the total opposite, using soft rainwater regarded as some of Japan’s finest (so much so that there is a mineral water bottling plant on-site at the distillery), and distilling a lightly peated dram.
Regarded as one of the most picturesque distilleries in the world, Hakushu sits at 700m above sea level, making it one of the loftiest malt whisky distilleries in the world. For context, Dalwhinnie Distillery, often referenced as Scotland’s most elevated whisky-maker, is only 350m high. You could say Japan has taken whisky to new heights!
The first Hakushu distillery, home to no less than 24 stills, is now silent, with all malt whisky produced at a second building named Hakushu Higashi, built in 1981.
This is the distillery’s signature bottling - a light dram, softly peated and offering plentiful fresh fruit and herbal forest flavours.
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At first, a lightly peated malted barley note emerges, soon followed by a little nutty oak, apples, some forest floor aromas, a touch of melted chocolate and vanilla.
An oily mouthfeel serves up heaps of fruity, herbal flavours with flavours of grassy peat, caramelised apples, pears and slight mint, followed by vanilla biscuits, oak and floral honey.
On the shorter side, but still deeply enjoyable, with a refreshing quality and notes of lemon zest, ashy peat, black pepper, salted caramel and light oak.