I haven’t looked at a Japanese whisky for a while, and with the current hype and crazy prices (plus underwhelming new NAS releases…) I may not be doing so too often in the future either. Fun to try a peated whisky from the other side of the planet though!
Nose: Hakushu is “the forest distillery” and, if we’re going by overall impressions rather than dissecting the constituent parts here, that’s very much the sense you get. It’s clean, fresh, green with some hints of earth and flowers. There’s some lovely smoke too – a pine needle bonfire somewhere in the distance. The fruitiness is very restrained and similarly “green” – unripe peach, white nectarine and star fruit, that sort of thing. Quite a copious amount of citrus however: yuzu, lime, a spiral of tangerine peel. Interestingly the peat combines with the almost-menthol freshness to give a little buzz of something medicinal every now and then. It’s a beautiful nose, and somewhat idiosyncratic.
Taste: Very citrussy at first, with pomelo and sharp lemon. Then pandan and lime leaves. Behind that there is sweeter barley and cereal bars, plus some earthy mineral notes. A touch of salt too I think. It is, however, a bit thin…
Finish: …but then gets smokier in the finish, and a bit fatter. A neat trick. Quite nutty – I’m thinking of when I dry roast peanuts in a wok to make Gong Bao chicken. Some ginger too, and some Lipton’s iced tea with lemon. Medium in length.
I’m by no means an expert on Japanese whisky (I can’t keep up with what’s coming out of Scotland), but I have come across quite a few now that make a stunning impression on the nose, but then taste-wise … not so much. This one does fall into the trap somewhat – the chill-filtering and low-ish ABV not helping by creating a thin arrival and mouthfeel – but it’s the peat that comes to the rescue and provides a solid development. It’s a very good whisky indeed, with a unique profile and certainly one I’d suggest trying if the opportunity arises. But since you can easily buy two great Scottish single malts for the same price perhaps not the greatest value for money.