If you buy only one Japanese whisky this year, make it the limited edition Yamazaki Mizunara Cask 2017 Edition.
While we’ve never had a bad bottle of Japanese whisky, it’s these annual releases of limited editions that tend to win the most awards. The craftsmanship is still top notch, but the supply of ingredients is stunted by the rarity of the cask wood. Mizunara oak gained Suntory’s interest in the 1940s, but the experiments didn’t really ramp up until after World War II when wood became difficult to import and they were essentially forced to master what was already on hand. Suntory is careful about which trees they use: only straight grain, so that less whisky is lost over time though inferior wood.
Mizunara Cask 2017 is an elegant blend of over 100 different whiskies, aged 18 to 50 years, and matured in casks made from native Mizunara oak wood only grown in Japan and only used by Suntory’s whisky portfolio.
Few whiskies make it to the 50-year mark, and a tiny fraction of the world’s whisky supply has ever seen Mizunara oak. As a result, there will be 5,000 bottles worldwide, which is quite short of the numbers you see from Old Forester Birthday Bourbon or other American limited releases. The price tag is an expectedly steep $1,000.
If Japanese whisky has ever seemed less aggressive, dominant, and visceral to you than some of its American cousins, it’s because the Japanese focus on refined and subtle flavors. We often shy away from the word elegant because, in the whisky world, it can be overused. But with Japanese bottles it’s often the best descriptor.
The distillery says it’s a rich, elegant, and fragrant whisky, smelling of aloe wood and cinnamon, and tasting of dry fruits, coconut and orange marmalade, with a silky texture. The Mizunara imparts a spicy, incense-like finish that lingers.
It’s available as early as October 1, but that will vary by state. Let’s put it this way: start asking your local shops right now.