Yamazaki 12 Years Review

Yamazaki 12 Years Review

Yamazaki 12 Years was the flagship whisky from the Yamazaki distillery in Japan. At Suntory they use a unique aging process that involves Spanish, American (ex-Bourbon) and Japanese (Mizunara) oak. This gives the whisky a unique character all its own and when it was available at a not-absurd price I enjoyed picking up a bottle and sipping on it now and then. At its current crazy-pants prices I can’t even fathom grabbing one.

Yamazaki 12 Years Info

Region: Osaka, Japan

Distiller: Suntory
Mashbill: 100% Malted Barley
Cask: American, Spanish and Japanese Oak
Age: 12 years
ABV: 43%

Price: $120+ | Specialty and auctions mostly

Yamazaki 12 Years Review


Rich fruit, buttery graham, malty sweetness, hay and a bit of honeydew build an aroma that is quite pleasing to the senses.

Fruit, buttery graham, malt, citrus peels, hay, spice and a candy sweetness towards the end that reminds me of those orange Circus Peanuts. Not a bad flavor all-in-all, a simple sipper for sure.

Medium malty fade accompanied by notes of nuts, fruit and a bit of char.

Decent balance, light body and a soft velvety feel

Yamazaki 12 years is a good whisky that I’m not excited about, which causes a bit of internal conflict for me. On a pure merit scale the interesting aroma and palate I think deserve an B+ range rating, but on an excitement scale I feel like it’s more of a B range for me and sticking it in the B range feels like a copout. I wish there was a better solution, but in the end I decided to satisfy the less emotion driven part of myself and go with that fact that it is a good daily drinker that I wouldn’t be upset about having in my glass.

SCORE: 87/100 (B+)

Yamazaki 12 Review
  • Nose - 87
  • Palate - 87
  • Finish - 87
  • Balance, Body & Feel - 87


Yamazaki 12 years is a decent whisky. It’s price is obscenely high these days, but worth a taste if you can find some at a not-obscene price.

Yamazaki 12 Years Label

Josh Peters

Josh Peters

I read about, think about, write about, and drink whisk(e)y. In short, it's my passion.
Josh Peters

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8 Responses to Yamazaki 12 Years Review

  1. Excellent review Josh. A very decent dram but hard to get excited about is spot on. Personally I prefer Suntory’s Hakushu Single Malt, which is lighter and crisper all round. Interestingly, the 12 year olds of both these flagship malts are damn hard to find even here in Japan since they switched to the NAS bottlings a couple of years back. And to add insult to injury, they’re about the same price here as you’re quoting for over your way. More than double the price of an Ardbeg 10 or Springbank 10, triple the the price of a Glenmorangie or Talisker. Not sure what’s up with that.

  2. We can get it here in Tokyo for around $80 a bottle ($50 last year), but it seems it’s more popular overseas. People go crazy over it and the 18-year-old expression as well, but they really are ‘meh’ whiskies when you consider the price. After dinner with a piece of chocolate, it’s a fine dram. Sitting in a bar and drinking this stuff, though?… boring. Most of my customers at my pub (Japanese, of course) prefer Scotch malts, and when they do go for a Japanese malt, it’s a Chichibu or Mars; they find the Suntory and Nikka whiskies to be uninteresting. For a whisky that was created to suit the Japanese palate, it sure seems to do better with non-Japanese, and they seem to like it as a status symbol, or because it’s easy-drinking, neither reason ever given by someone who actually likes whisky in general.

  3. Hey Josh, very interesting reading this one alongside your 2013 review — when a bottle could be had for $50! Just posted our own write-up on it, and I very much agree it makes a fine daily drinker, or would if the price were right. I like this, but there are many things I’d rather lay out $100+ for…

  4. During the break between lunch and dinner service at the restaurant where I work in the Bay Area something incredible happened. It was so unbelievable, I almost took out my cell phone to lookup the phone number for the Vatican to call in and report a miracle (and mind you, I’m not even Catholic!).

    After munching a super burrito I meandered into the local Bev Mo to browse. Imagine my astonishment as I scanned the aisles and showcases when, lo and behold, my eyes fell upon a sole bottle of Yamazaki 12 Year. Price – $99.99. I’ve passed up a couple of different opportunities to score a bottle of this elusive spirit for the same price within the past year. Now the cheapest price I can get one at is $159. I’ve also had a couple of pours of it at a local watering hole for $14 each and enjoyed it immensely (dunno how long the bottle had been open but it was drinking very nicely). I even liked it more than the Hakushu 12 and Hibiki 17 I have open currently, so I picked it up. A sales associate said that they have been randomly receiving 3 bottle allocations recently. Go figure?!

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