As I explained last week, the only Japanese Whiskies I've seen for sale in the US are two expressions of Suntory Yamazaki. Suntory's Yamazaki (Suntory is the parent company, Yamazaki is the distillery) gained some fame in the US as the whiskey advertised by Bill Murry in the popular film Lost in Translation.
I have long enjoyed the 12 year old Yamazaki, which I find to be a good middle of the road, sippin' whiskey. It has a nice malty flavor but has some meat to it as well, so it's not as light as, say, a typical Speysider, but more in the vein of a further northern Highlander, to put it in Scotch terms.
I recently tried, for the first time, the 18 year old Yamazaki and really enjoyed it. It has a nice malt flavor and some understated smoke. If I were to compare it to a Scotch, I would say it is similar to Highland Park, one of my all time favorite whiskies. Too bad no other Yamazakis are available here as I have been really impressed with their output.
I hope the Japanese Whiskey industry will eventually start shipping more varieties to the US. They are making excellent stuff and I would love to have an opportunity to experience more of it.
Next week, I will describe a few of the most recent bottles brought to me from Japan.