Whisky Advocate

Suntory Yamazaki to debut 1984 Single Malt Whisky

July 29th, 2009

For the first time ever, Suntory will be selling a vintage single malt in the U.S. It’s a 1984 vintage, and it will be available here in October. I have a sample and will be posting up my review shortly.

The press release, along with a nice background on Japanese whisky-making and the history of Japanese whisky, follows.

The Distinctive Whisky of Japan

(July 29, 2009) – New York, NY… Suntory Limited proudly announces the limited introduction of YAMAZAKI 1984 Single Malt Whisky in the US, commemorating the company’s 110th anniversary as well as the 25th anniversary of the YAMAZAKI brand.  This October, only 300 individually-numbered bottles of this precious liquid will be released in the United States. 

Smooth and full-bodied, Suntory YAMAZAKI is the superlative single malt whisky of Japan.  YAMAZAKI 1984 has a distinctive, cinnamon-like flavor, the result of its key malt, aged in Japanese mizunara casks, the hidden treasure of Suntory. All of the malt whiskies featured in YAMAZAKI 1984 were originally distilled in 1984. The new YAMAZAKI 1984 joins the existing marques, aged for 12 or 18 years. 

About Yamazaki 1984
Handcrafted at the oldest distillery in Japan, Suntory YAMAZAKI 1984 is made from the purest natural ingredients distilled through the art of Japanese craftsmanship in perfect harmony with nature.  Indeed, Suntory YAMAZAKI is made with the same pure water used in Japan’s most esteemed tea ceremonies.  With a rich, sophisticated character all its own, Yamazaki’s secret lies in the harmonious marriage of single malt matured in three different oak casks – American, Spanish and Japanese.

As the supply of casks became limited in the 1940’s, Suntory turned to making its own casks from Japanese mizunara oak.   The coopers discovered the porous wood was prone to leaks; blenders found that the mizunara imparted overbearing aromas and taste to the malts stored within.  But their dismay turned to delight when they discovered, after the long period of aging, the mizunara oak casks added a distinctive touch to the whisky, endowing it with sweet fragrance reminiscent of incense.  

The Suntory YAMAZAKI Whisky-Making Process
While YAMAZAKI production is very similar to the Scottish process, key differences lie in the use of selected barley strains and peating levels, along with the legendary, ultra pure waters from the outskirts of Kyoto to produce its smooth, honeyed taste.

The Suntory YAMAZAKI production process begins with the selection of the finest barley according to strict quality standards.  The barley germinates on exposure to moisture and air, producing enzymes that will later convert starch into sugars.  The grains of malt are then ground into grist and mixed with pure water from the Vale of Yamazaki.  This mixture yields a sweet liquid called wort. 

Adding the finest yeast to the wort begins the fermentation process.  Differing from Scottish whisky, Yamazaki uses wooden washbacks to ferment the wash longer, giving the whisky its creamy flavor.  The resulting wash is distilled twice in copper pots.  Only the distinctive middle cut of the second distillation is collected to become whisky.

After the distillation process is complete, the new spirits are aged in the selection of Japanese, American and Spanish oak casks, where the whisky matures to its amber color and smooth taste.

Tasting Notes
On the nose, YAMAZAKI 1984 opens with notes of cinnamon, ripe fruit, vanilla and incense.  On the palate, it offers a sweet, pleasantly sour and mature taste with a lasting depth of flavor.  The finish is lingering and slightly sweet.  Its color is a deep red amber.

History of Japanese Whisky
The history of Japanese whisky began in 1923 when Shinjiro Torii, the founder of Suntory and the father of Japanese whisky, built Japan’s first malt whisky distillery in the Vale of Yamazaki.  Located on the outskirts of Kyoto, the ancient capital of Japan, this proved to be the ideal environment for whisky production. 

A good whisky is born of pure water and a climate where cool temperatures and high humidity create an ideal maturation environment.  The Vale of Yamazaki is famed for its pure waters, prized by the famous Japanese tea ceremony master Senno Rikyu.  The Yamazaki distillery, where whisky was crafted from pure malt using copper pot stills, was the first of its kind outside of Scotland. 

Today, Suntory YAMAZAKI is the most popular single malt whisky in Japan and is enjoyed by whisky connoisseurs the world over.  Suntory YAMAZAKI was ranked the world’s thirteenth bestselling single malt whisky in terms of cases sold in 2008, and is currently exported to around 25 countries, including the United States.

Enjoying Suntory YAMAZAKI
The complex aromas and flavors of Suntory YAMAZAKI can be enjoyed in a variety of ways.  The ideal method to appraise its rich, fruity aroma is to enjoy YAMAZAKI straight, either as an aperitif or after-dinner drink.  Tasting Suntory YAMAZAKI on the rocks is an excellent way to appreciate its smoothness and flavor. 

Product Name, Volume, Suggested Retail Price, Alcohol Content, Packaging:
The YAMAZAKI 1984 Single Malt Whisky, 750 ml, $550-$650, 48%, 6 bottles
Date Available: Gradual release starting October, 2009
Sales Area: Select US Markets

14 Responses to “Suntory Yamazaki to debut 1984 Single Malt Whisky”

  1. Sku says:

    It’s great to see Suntory expanding its US presence, first with Hibiki and now this. I hope some other Japanese distillers will follow suit.

  2. Jeff H. says:

    I find it amusing that there is a “gradual” release. Wouldn’t want to flood the US market with all 6 bottles at once!

    Or is the number of bottles listed a typo?

  3. John Hansell says:

    Jeff, Higher up, they say there are 300 individually numbered bottles. The packaging six bottles to a case.

  4. Kevin says:

    Any chance this will show up at WhiskyFest SF???

  5. David G says:

    The pricing is out of my range, but I hope to see it at WhiskeyFest NY.

    Their 18 year old is a go-to bottle of mine. I think it’s got great bang-for-buck.

  6. David G says:

    Upon second reading… is the $550-$650 price range per case, or per bottle? Because it reads like it’s per case.

  7. Jeff H. says:

    Doh! “Packaging” = 6 bottles. Of course. Sorry about that.

  8. Nonjatta says:

    This is a very good whisky indeed. I have just posted my impressions on nonjatta and I know many others are very excited by it. Wish I could afford a whole bottle.

  9. John Hansell says:

    Thanks Nonjatta. Click on Nonjatta’s name in the posting above to see Nanjatta’s review. I have also reviewed it (and liked it) and will post my thoughts up soon.

  10. […] Jatta reviews the Yamazaki 1984, as does John Hansell and Whisky […]

  11. Chap says:

    Great! I fell in love with the Japanese oak finish that was used in the Yamazaki malts (they mix some bourbon cask, sherry cask and a little Japanese cask to make 18/12 IIRC) at Whiskeyfest San Francisco. I’ve been scouring the web looking for a bottling done only in that Japanese wood…

  12. The former cask strength Vintage release was simply a great sherry cask that competes with 50yo Scotch malt in terms of depth, complexity and quality.

    This new release is also excellent, of course if you like sherry matured malts. It is a true vintage as it has its own style, quite different from the 1980 or the 1990 for instance.

    Definitely one of the best malts of this year !

  13. Gardner Dunn says:

    The Yamazaki 1984, which is mainly of Mizunara butt (Japanese oak)and 48%alc. There will only be 300 released in the US. The cost will be $560 to $620 per bottle. I got to try recently at the Yamazaki distillery and it was amazaing. Look out for it!!!

  14. Andrew says:

    Help is appreciated.

    I managed to get a hold of a pristine packaged, hand numbered 1984 Yamakazi whisky. However, there is one thing odd. From all the reading I’ve done, I determined the release in the U.S. was for 12-year and 18-year vintages? Mine is a 20-year…..encased in a wooden barrel in 1984, bottled in 2004. It’s been in my possession since 2006. I’d love to know what it is currently valued at. Any help is appreciated. I’ll come back to visit this thread on occasion……hope somebody can help.

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