For the 2022 holiday season, Japan’s Yamazaki has launched four whiskies in its Limited Edition Tsukuriwake Selection, “a fundamental piece of its unrivaled craftsmanship” that “introduce the foundational pillars of Yamazaki Single Malt Whisky – Puncheon, Peated Malt, Spanish Oak, and Mizunara. The collection honors Tsukuriwake, which means ‘artisanship through a diversity of making’ and is embraced by the Founding House of Japanese Whisky.”
These whiskies are all unique limited edition single malt bottlings that carry no age statements but which represent very different styles. We received samples of the quartet for review. Ready to dive in?
All four are bottled at 96 proof.
Yamazaki Limited Edition Tsukuriwake Selection 2022 – Puncheon – 480 liter puncheon casks are considered “the heart” of Yamazaki’s single malt program, and this whisky is aged exclusively in American oak casks of this type. Malty and surprisingly woody on the nose, the whiskey quickly settles into a groove that will be familiar to Yamazaki drinkers, featuring notes of fall foliage, baked apples, and a slight bite of pepper on the nose. Much of the same appears on the palate, immersing you in layers of gentle fruit, baked pie dough, and a hint of earthy honey that is doused out by that enigmatic, peppery quality. It isn’t complex, but it’s devastatingly focused on its talking points. The finish immediately forces you to think of wandering through the woods on a crisp autumn day, making this a perfect whisky for this time of year. A- / $450
Yamazaki Limited Edition Tsukuriwake Selection 2022 – Peated Malt – Peat is uncommon in Japan, and when it is used it tends to be for a light accent. Here this whiskey is made entirely from heavily peated malt whiskies, offering a unique perspective on Japanese whisky. While the nose is somewhat blunt, screaming Islay — evergreen branches ablaze, with a beefy quality — the palate is overall much milder and more inviting. A stronger note of iodine finds room for some sweetness, turning fruity as it develops in the glass. (Yamazaki says pineapple, and after tasting again, that’s dead-on.) The earthy, smoldering quality creeps up on you with its elegance and balance, scorched fruit ultimately lingering on the finish. Again, it’s a lovely cool weather selection, though a far cry from the typical Japanese bottling. For that reason alone it’s worth tippling on. A- / $450
Yamazaki Limited Edition Tsukuriwake Selection 2022 – Spanish Oak – This is an outright shameless sherry bomb with all the iconic leathery, orange-tinged character in effect. Old saddles, polished oak, and tea leaf all add to the overpowering nose, a drying attack moving into notes of coffee. The palate is intense and heavy with sherry, quite a bit too much for casual consumption. A touch of raspberry nods at fruit, then opening the door to green herbs and some dry grass notes. The finish is quite grassy and dry, and a bit thin as the sherry fades out with a gasp. It’s rather one-note and overblown, and it’s the sole whisky in this collection that I’m not really enthusiastic about. B / $450
Yamazaki Limited Edition Tsukuriwake Selection 2022 – Mizunara – Yamazaki pulls out all the stops for this final expression, which is aged in rare Japanese mizunara oak casks. Light notes of citrus, fresh-cut wood, and a floral tea leaf note provide a heady nose, with a pinch of red pepper adding some spice. It’s the tea leaf that immediately dominates the palate, however, the grassy, floral character segueing into notes of cinnamon-laced applesauce, fresh cream, and jasmine. Increasingly perfumed as it develops in the glass, the whisky culminates with a burst of floral fragrance that wouldn’t be out of place in a men’s cologne — and I mean that in the best possible way. It’s rich and soulful and delicious as a dram, but excuse me while I take a bath in this stuff. A / $620