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All-Star Cask

David Zivan | February 23, 2018 | Story Now In

Japanese mizunara oak would, on first glance, appear ill-suited for the making of whisky casks. It generally does not grow straight; its wood has a notably high moisture content; and, even worse, it tends to be rather porous. And, yet, in recent years, when bottling their best stuff, the skilled artisans at legendary Suntory Yamasaki Distillery have chosen Japanese mizunara oak as their barrel of choice. 

The newly released Yamazaki Mizunara Cask 2017 Edition ($1,000) continues an extraordinary run of bottlings craved by collectors and connoisseurs worldwide. Suntory’s chief blender, Shinji Fukuyo, created this mix from whiskies aged at least 18 years (and some as long as 50) exclusively in the challenging wood. His aim, he notes, was to create “a heightened sense” and a palate with “aromas and flavors never known before.” Remarkably powerful, the spirit is nevertheless approachable—light-bodied and dancy in the glass, with an astonishing smoothness that belies the 96-proof strength. Baking spices and distinct woodnotes characterize the nose and linger long on the finish.

Fukuyo, who became Suntory’s chief blender in 2009, is only the fourth master blender in the distillery’s history, which dates to 1899. “I wanted to reveal the whisky’s soul,” he says. “Encountering it should be a moment of epiphany.”

Originally published in the January/February issue of Silicon Valley

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