I was in Kyoto for the Sakura festival to see the Cherry Blossoms or Hanami as the Japanese call it. The sights and atmosphere was amazing and the food, as always in Japan, was absolutely fantastic. One of the main highlights of the vacation though was trip to the Yamazaki distillery, which is at the midway point between Osaka and Kyoto by JR Rail.
The distillery was beautiful and I was convinced after the tour that it was possibly the most modern and high tech distillery in the world (but my view is probably biased as this is my first ever distillery visit!) I'll not flood the post with more pictures of the distillery but all I can say is that you should definitely visit if you're ever in the area. Did I mention that you get a free whisky tasting at the end of the tour as well!
Whisky tasting of Yamazaki and Hakushu 12 yr with green tea or OJ?!
At the whisky store (In The Barrel), I was looking forward to finding a wide range of Yamazakis at decent prices. To my dismay, the selection was limited to the usual 12-25 year range and other Suntory products such as Hibiki and Hakushu. The crown jewel of the store was the Yamazaki 1984 but at 105,000Yen (~US$1,000) it was a tad bit overpriced in my opinion.
The Yamazaki Bar
Thankfully, there was a bar at the ground level where I could drown my sorrows. Browsing through the menu which had an extensive list of Scotch (Lagavulin, Macallan, Bowmore etc.), I spotted the Yamazaki 1984 which they sold by the glass at US$30. Doing some basic math (which was difficult given that I had 4 shots of whisky during the tasting about 10m before), I figured quickly that it was cheaper to drink the 1984 at the bar then to buy the bottle at the store.
Comments: A superb dram! The nose and the taste don't blow you away but the long, lingering fruit and crisp malt just took my breath away. I love how the whisky tastes really refined and elegant compared to Scotches of the same vintage. You can really appreciate the amount of thought they put into crafting the whisky. I'm sure it didn't hurt that they used Mizamaru Oak which imparted a sweet but not overpowering flavour. I am now officially a fan of Yamazaki. Kampei!