This is a favourite of mine. The nose is quite restrained. There is some grape in there, a bit of caramel and also some floral flourishes. Tastes forthright and sweet. Dried apricots? But what really seals the deal for me is the well controlled pepperiness. It is quite light and playful. There is the merest hint of TCP sweetness near the end. But we are talking a hint, this is peppery not medicinal.
A bit of background: Suntory, who make Hakushu, put a lot of emphasis in their marketing on their whiskies being designed to go with Japanese food. Nikka, their main rival, put more emphasis on "authentic-ness". I suppose this difference might be stretched and simplified thus: Suntory like to pose as making "Japanese whisky"; Nikka market themselves as making "authentic Japanese Scotch". There is a danger of making too much of this difference, since a great deal of it is in the marketing style rather than the whisky, but it does seem to have some resonance when tasting the Hakushu 12 and the Hibiki 17. They do have quite a distinctive peppery taste. I can imagine them going quite well with a gingery fish side-dish or something. Japanese people usually eat a little bit when they drink. They also almost always put ice in their whisky, and often make very diluted "mizuwaris" (literally, "water mix") with it. I don`t know about the mizuwari - it seems a shame at this time of year to take good whisky that way, I will wait until the Japanese summer gets to its most sticky and oppressive for that - but Hakushu 12 tastes fairly good with ice. This, by the way, is also true of the Hibiki 17. Suntory always seem to advertise these drinks with ice in them. I`ll keep on taking this favourite without, however, until the weather changes my mind.
Reviews by more reliable types
Martine Nouet, Whisky Magazine, 56，1/6/2006. 7.5/10. Nouet found it sweet and florid on the nose, with sweet citrus notes emerging. In the mouth, she found it a little coarse compared to a "subtle" nose. It tasted sweet but prickly: "ginger and Tabasco". She found the finish drying and spicy with a distant hint of cashew nut.
Dave Broom, Whisky Magazine, 56，1/6/2006. 7.25/10. Broom memorably described this whisky as a ""a trembling and rather sensitive wee soul, but a charming afternoon companion." He found its nose clean and pure: "lightly floral and fragrant if a little lean". The palate was also light: "Starts sweet, then softens into peach before becoming nutty (praline)." Contradicting Nouet's impression, Broom felt the "well ordered" palate delivered more than the nose promised. The finish was "clean but a little short".
Serge Valentin, Whiskyfun.com, March 19, 2005.84/100 ("Recommendable"). Valentin liked the apple and light spices on the nose and also detected "some fresh maritime notes". He found it had a nice rounded liveliness, with a "sweet and delicately peaty and smoky" taste. Overall "a good one."
The 2005 bottling has gained an average score of 83/100 ("recommendable") from the reviewers on the Maltmaniacs.org website.
43 per cent
Price (April 2007)
700 ml - 7,035 yen
(Please note the dates on reviews if they are provided. There may be significant variation between different years of a single malt brand)