Yamazaki 1984 x Taketsuru 35
A few weeks back I decided to open up two of my more special bottles - Yamazaki 1984 and Taketsuru 35. Both are well regarded, highly rated, and extremely expensive on the secondary. In light of this crazy year, I felt it would be a good idea to give them a try and see if the hype is real!
The #Taketsuru 35 is not particularly rare, as there were 10,800 total bottles released over almost a decade, with the quantity released per year varying between 700-1200 bottles. However, these rarely show up at auction and I actually have never seen one in Japan at a bar, so my guess is most were consumed (yay!). A few things to note about this bottle:
Releases prior to 2004 do not contain Miyagikyo, as that distillery opened in 1969.
Unlike the rest of the Taketsuru series, this is the only one that is not a pure malt. The grain is a Coffey Grain from Nishinomiya.
There are bound to be batch variations in flavor, especially over the lifespan of release - so my notes might not reflect every bottle!
The #Yamazaki 1984 is more rare than the Taketsuru 35, but still not as rare as a single cask or other limited Suntory release, as there were 3000 total bottles. However, the 1984 celebrates the 25th anniversary of Yamazaki Single Malt and is still very special. It has a high Mizunara cask content, and the Mizunara notes are called out on the label as the highlight of the whisky. In general, 1984 was a fantastic year for Yamazaki blends/single casks.
Two powerhouse whiskies from the two most famous distilleries in Japan! Let's get tasting!
[Bottle Review] Taketsuru 35
Distillery: Nikka (Yoichi + Miyagikyo Malt/Nishinomiya Coffey Grain)
Bottling Date: sometime between 2002-2011, perhaps between 2004-2007
Cask Type: Various
# bottles: between 700-1200, depending on release year
Bottled for: Public Release
Auction price at time of writing: ~$7500 in Feb 2020
Original Retail Price: ~$450-650, depending on release year
Bubblegum, coconut, pineapple, mango - reminds me of '88-'92 Irish or '76 Benriach with all of these tropical notes. Honey on creamy vanilla bean yogurt, both green and purple grapes. Moist old wood, sweet orange creamsicle, white chocolate. I LOVE fruity and tropical whiskies, so yeah this is right up my alley. Then it continues with floral notes (Jasmine), burnt sugar, more pine, dates and jujube. Fantastic!
Orange cream, chartreuse (multi-herbs), cinnamon, pine wood...then guava, slightly citric, orange peel, and matcha. Again very creamy and the tropical notes pop out the most to me. Guava + mango when I go back to it, with a dash of salt to boot.
Slightly tannic, black or maybe green tea, hints of coconut and pineapple, and mint. Really really long finish, cream and juicy fruit gum, syrupy the whole way. Not as sweet as the nose/palate, but balances out the whisky.
Final Score = 93.0
[Bottle Review] Yamazaki 1984
Bottling Date: 2009
Cask Type: Various (Mizunara, European, and American Oak)
# bottles: 2500 Japan + 500 rest of world
Bottled for: Public Release
Auction price at time of writing: ~$13,000 in Oct 2020
Original Retail Price: ~$925
Sushi ginger, sandalwood, spicy caramel, stewed and buttered tropical fruits like passion fruit (hints of them, not in your face), and pine/concentrated wood. Then some Japanese packaged pancakes with butter and maple syrup inside (the ones from 7-eleven!), beeswax, and umeshu. Very concentrated tree oils, also hints of green apple and pear. Amazing nose, I could smell it for days and days!
Oily, punchy, creamy, pine and lemons (...lemon pine sol!), herbal, candied orange, cinnamon, spearmint gum, grapefruit, grilled peaches and something umami. Then stonefruits and a hint of mango hidden in the middle. Sweeter after some air, almost a bubblegum sweetness. Always returns to that resinous side...
Coconut flesh, sandalwood, black tea, cinnamon again here, citrus, bitter herbs, white pepper, honey and ricola cough drops, drying. After some air, the bubblegum sweetness is here too, with a herbaceous syrup. This is just so concentrated on herbaceous notes and tannic tree oil notes. If that was more my jam this would go higher.
Final Score = 92.3
These are both extremely complex whiskies, but very different. The 48% abv of the 1984 is appreciated and really makes it punchy, but the finesse of the Taketsuru, even at a lower 43% more than makes up for the lower proof. I think the resinous, punchy style of the Yamazaki 1984 was great and it's truly a memorable dram. But the fruitiness, complexity, and the fact that the Taketsuru was geared more towards my palate was the reason it came out on top, ever so slightly. Of course, as you can see by the scores, this can go either way - so go find these and try a head to head yourself!
Would I buy at today's prices for either of these? Not a chance - these are currently priced to just be oogled on a shelf. But they are well worth trying, so if you see them at a bar and the price isn't too bad, I highly recommend having a half dram 😁 One important note on the Taketsuru - first whisky my wife has outright said "it's so yummy."
*For transparency, I first took notes by myself with no input, and then referenced both Serge's notes on Whiskyfun and Stefan's notes in Whisky Rising and incorporated things I agreed with into my own notes*