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In early 2020 Suntory announced that it would be releasing a whisky to honor the passage of time, a Yamazaki Single Malt that had been aged for more than 55 years featuring Mizunara cask whisky distilled in 1960 and the White Oak cask whisky distilled in 1961 and 1964. With only 100 bottles released, the history behind the bottling, and the incredible resulting product, this has to be considered one of, if not the most sought after and collectible bottles of whisk(e)y to ever come to market.
The Yamazaki 55 includes three main components that span all three generations of Yamazaki master blenders, starting with Suntory founder Shinjiro Torii, considered one of the founding fathers of Japanese whisky. The first, distilled by Torii in 1960, was aged mostly in Mizunara oak casks; the second and third single malts were distilled in 1961 and 1964, respectively, by Suntory’s then-master blender Keizo Saji, and aged in American white oak. The culmination of the release came when the trio of whiskys were selected and blended in 2020 by Shingo Torii, grandson of Shinjiro and Suntory’s current master blender in partnership with Shinji Fukuyo, the 5th generation Chief Blender.
The Japanese refer to this as Wabisabi and it is truly a testament to blending the perfect whisky crafted more than 55 years ago. Fukuyo was quoted as saying ‘‘ Very old Scotch Whiskies gave me this impression of them being perfect Greek sculptures with beautiful toned beauty. Instantly impressive as a piece of art. But the Yamazaki 55 is more like an old Buddhist statue. Calm and mysterious. It takes time to take in its inner beauty with the smell of Japanese incense and stripped old wood, like the Toshodaiji Temple in Nara. ’’
The journey to create the Yamazaki 55 Year Old is so special that Suntory has said a normal tasting glass isn’t good enough, but that a Burgundy glass be used instead in order to take in the full array of notes that this complex whisky has to offer. The amount of skill required to pull these single malts together in a perfect blend is something that is incredibly unique to the generational expertise that remains at Suntory.
Not only are the contents of the bottle absolutely beautiful but the display is stunning as well. The Yamazaki 55 year comes in its own custom box crafted from Japanese Mizunara wood using a technique called master joining. The custom box is then finished with lacquer, a quintessential Japanese artistic technique which allows the black surface to shine from deep within and feels soft on the touch. The bottle itself is a crystal bottle with sand blasted calligraphy featuring gold dust and lacquer. The bottle also features traditional Japanese crafts such as washi paper on the capsule and a Kyo-kumihimo plaited cord from Kyoto.
COLORDeep amber distinctive of Mizunara casks.
NOSEA robust aroma redolent of sandal wood. A sweet, mature bouquet like well-ripened fruit.
PALATEA soft, smooth first sip that blossoms in the mouth with flavor. A mixture of sweet and slightly bitter, followed by a woody notefrom the Mizunara cask.
FINISHSlightly bitter, a fragrance like scented wood and a hint of smokiness.A sweet, rich, lingering finish.
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