It may have come as a surprise that Suntory Whisky Yamazaki Sherry Cask 2013 was named “World Whisky of the Year” in Jim Murray’s 2015 Whisky Bible. However, sherry cask whisky has been a constant staple of the Suntory Whisky portfolio since 1924, a year after the distillery began construction.
Shinjiro Torii, the founding father of Japanese whisky first started making his whiskies by leveraging sherry casks imported from the wine of southern Spain needed to blend his famous Akadama Sweet Wine. Hence the sherry cask was the first cask used by Suntory Whisky and plays an important role in the origin of Japanese whisky.
Engraved on the cask heads dated 1924: we see the name of the exit port “Cadiz,” and region where the sherry was made “Jerez,”as well as a remnant of the original bunghole typical of old sherry casks.
A meticulous selection
Over its 92-year history, Suntory Whisky has managed numerous sherry casks and sherry malts.
Suntory’s Chief Blender Shinji Fukuyo makes a point of visiting the Northern region of Spain himself. He does this to ensure that his selection of Spanish oak be sent to the “bodegas” (sherry wineries) to be made into the sherry casks used to store their Oloroso Sherry. Fukuyo carefully oversees this entire process, from the selection of the casks, to the charring, and the ageing of the sherry.
After three years of ageing, the sherry casks are sent back to Suntory’s Yamazaki distillery, ready to receive what becomes the distinguished Yamazaki Sherry Cask Whisky.
Sherry casks are both revered and feared for their strong character, as they can easily overpower a whisky’s flavour.
The Yamazaki’s malts can also be affected by this sherry/Spanish oak cask flavour. However, in the case of the Yamazaki Sherry Cask, Suntory’s Chief Blender Shinji Fukuyo selects only those casks in which the delicate balance of chemistry between the Yamazaki malt and sherry cask can be achieved, thereby enhancing Yamazaki’s characteristically rich and multifaceted flavour.
The meticulous selection process of the Spanish oak, the management of the sherry casks, and the overall aging process ensure the final award winning quality of this liquid.
A fine blend of maturity and delicateness
Chief Blender Shinji Fukuyo is often compared to an artist. His blends are deliberate designs meticulously chosen from over a hundred malt whiskies.
Each taste is a colour and aroma, specifically curated for the occasion. Fukuyo is clear that he did not blend the Yamazaki Sherry Cask 2016 for the novice. The Yamazaki Sherry Cask 2016 is created for the “Suntory Whisky Lover”—a lover of complex, refined and subtle tastes.
Like the rest of the Yamazaki Cask Collection (Mizunara, Bourbon Barrel, and Puncheon), the sherry cask is a critical component that differen- tiates and characterizes the award winning Yamazaki Single Malt Whisky.
Fukuyo has designed a journey in this whisky. The Yamazaki Sherry Cask 2016 is undeniably where Spain meets Japan in the form of a whisky.
To fully enjoy this journey, Fukuyo recommends the whisky first be served neat to showcase its nose. On its own, there is a clear and fresh top note. A raisin-like, deep sweetness that is both elegant and rich. You immediately taste the complexity of this liquid, and the fine balance of maturity and delicateness.
Served on the rocks, the flavour opens as you begin to taste the Delaware grape-like sweetness and its slightly bitter acidity. When cut with water, there is a soft sweetness that blossoms like the first apples of the harvest.
Official Tasting notes
Deep richness, mellowness and complexity of flavours.
COLOUR : dark brown
NOSE : raisin, sun-dried tomato, clove, cocoa
PALATE : deep, rich, sweet and sour, chocolate with hazelnuts
FINISH : long, bittersweet, sour
The House of Suntory Whisky
Suntory was established in 1899 and is headquartered in Tokyo, Japan. Since 1923, as the pioneer of Japanese whisky, Suntory Whisky has been renowned for its House of Master Blenders and for their Art of Blending.
The Founding Father of Japanese whisky, Shinjiro Torii, built Japan’s first malt whisky distillery in Yamazaki, near Kyoto—a region known for the purity of its water, where the traditional Japanese tea ceremony was born. Torii dreamt of creating an authentically Japanese whisky by chosing a terrain and climate completely different to that of Scotland, thereby cultivating unique conditions for maturation.
In 1972, Torii’s son Keizo Saji, Suntory’s second master blender, built the Chita grain distillery near Nagoya to produce more of their own high quality grain whiskies. In 1973, Saji founded the Hakushu distillery amidst the deep forests of Mt. Kaikomagatake in the Japanese Southern Alps. Its high altitude and lush environment is what differentiates Hakushu from other distilleries.
With three distilleries and a great diversity in whisky making (different still shapes, five types of cask, and three varieties of wood), Suntory produces over 100 malt and grain whiskies which amounts to the whole of Scotland’s production.
With respect to heritage and a commitment to innovation, third generation master blender Shingo Torii, and grandson of Shinjiro, now leads this most highly awarded House of Japanese Whisky. Today the House of Suntory Whisky has been named four-time Distiller of the Year at the International Spirits Challenge in London, UK (2010, 2012, 2013, 2014).
Suntory Whiskies are subtle, refined and complex. The portfolio includes two single malt whiskies and one blend: Yamazaki—Japan’s #1 Single Malt, multi-layered and profound, Hakushu—verdant, fresh, and delicately smoky, and the noble blend, Hibiki—Japan’s most highly awarded blended whisky.
YAMAZAKI SHERRY CASK 2016
Deep richness, mellowness and complexity of flavours.
Availability : February 1, 2016 Price: £200 RRP/700ml bottle
Stockists : Harrods - Hedonism - Selfridges. Plus on demand