Review: Hakushu 12 year

Three reviews in and they’ve all been bourbon.  Well, I guess it’s time to flip the switch and polish up on our Kanji because we’re going to Japan!  There’s a certain mystique about Japanese Whisky (no ‘E’ here folks) and I’m not sure if that’s because there are only a handful available on most shelves, or the high price deterrent of nearly all of them or if it’s simply the fact that they’re a foreign whisky that isn’t scotch (or bourbon for you non-Americans).  Either way, Suntory  produces a pretty tasty drop.  Hakushu 12 is a fantastic example of what Japanese Whisky can be: sweet, smoky and herbaceous while being incredibly drinkable.

I was able to snag a couple bottles early in 2018 for around $79 each and I’m glad that I picked them up when I did since they aren’t planning on shipping any more of it to the US due to a lack of aged spirits in their warehouses.  I’m sure the Japanese were just as caught off guard by their international success as the bourbon industry was in the early 2000s.  Almost all major US distilleries have ramped up production and many have dropped their age statements due to aged spirit inventory issues.  Not a bad problem to have if you’re in the market of selling whisk(e)y.

While this particular expression has been discontinued, Suntory has said that they will continue to produce the Hakushu line and that the discontinuation of the 12 year is only temporary until they have enough inventory.  I know that one of my local stores got in two bottles from his distributor in December of 2018, so if you’re still looking to grab one, there’s still hope for you as they appear to be floating around here and there.

So, how is it?  It’s pretty darn good.  Hakushu 12 sits at 96 proof, and as such, drinks very easily.  The nose has hints of apple and fresh herbs with a faint hint of smoke.  The palate is almost scotch-like, reminding me of maybe a Highland scotch, with a sweet, fruitiness at its core, but finishing with a nice smoky note.

Overall I find it to be a very lovely pour and would recommend trying it if you can find it, but I would not recommend spending more than $80-100, and honestly, not even that.  While a good spirit, you can get a couple bottles of scotch that would be very similar.  A quick search on shows us that it is very similar in profile to Highland Park 12 or 18, of which I have both and can say that they are indeed similar and you can buy two bottles of Highland Park 12 for what the MSRP of Hakushu 12 would set you back, and that is IF you can even find it.

Have you had Hakushu 12?  What did you think about it?  Are there other Japanese whiskies that you prefer or would like to try?  Let me know in the comments.

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