The world of single malt is somewhat overloaded with 'special edition' whiskies, each boasting some production twist or unique back story.
But the latest release from distiller Suntory is surely the genuine article, and worthy of a position among any enthusiast's bucket list drams.
Released in Australia this month, Yamazaki Mizunara 2017 Edition is the ultimate expression of the rare Mizunara oak that makes Japanese whisky unique. Suntory whiskies typically enjoy maturation in both European sherry and Mizunara casks, but the Mizunara 2017 has been blended from a selection of single malt whiskies aged entirely in Mizunara casks for at least 18 years.
Found in only a few regions in Japan, the rare Mizunara oak is hard and permeable in nature, making it a difficult wood to use in cask making. It is hard to shape and join with precision, and doesn't retain liquid well.
As the founding house of Japanese whisky, Suntory has three generations of experience in working with this temperamental wood, starting with the rigorous selection of trees with which to make their casks.
Yamazaki Mizunara 2017 Edition showcases this perseverance. In his pursuit of a true Mizunara character, Suntory's Chief Blender, Shinji Fukuyo, tasted a few hundred Mizunara whiskies and selected casks with a minimum age of 18 years, with a small portion of the blend exceeding 50 years of maturation.
"I wanted to reveal the whisky's soul; that is, the art of Mizunara – a heightened sense and awakened palate engaged through aromas and flavours never known before. Encountering it should be a moment of epiphany," Fukuyo says.
Age of greatness
There's been several previous Mizunara editions, but these have not had age statements, suggesting they have enjoyed significantly shorter maturation periods. According to Suntory, age is key to unlocking the signature taste of Mizunara – only a long maturation period can provide the distinctive spiciness and incense-like aromas, with notes of sandalwood and aloe wood that Suntory considers as the quintessential "Mizunara-ness."
You can experience a Mizunara epiphany for the small fee of $1400, which will buy one of 5000 bottles of the Mizunara 2017 Edition available globally. Presented in a beautiful wooden box crafted from recycled Suntory casks, the Yamazaki Mizunara 2017 Edition will be available to purchase from select retailers and on-premise venues in late September.