Yamazaki Prepares Launch of Mizunara Japanese Oak Cask Tsukuriwake Selection 2022 Edition
What you need to know:
- Yamazaki is preparing to unveil a 2022 Edition of its Mizunara-styled whisky as part of its Tsukuriwake Selection.
- The Tsukuriwake Selection was last seen in 2020, and was made of five different styles: Peated Malt, Spanish Oak, Mizunara, Bordeaux Wine Cask and Puncheon.
- With the launch of the 2022 Edition Mizunara, we wouldn't be surprised to see this be followed up with the four other styles in due time. Update: Labels have been released for the Spanish Oak, Puncheon and Peated Malt -styled Yamazaki! Read here.
- That said, while this is going to generate significant interest, don't think it is going to come cheap, with the set having gone for as much as $20,000 the last time it was seen. It should also be noted that this does not carry with it an age statement.
- Cop the Drop or Not: Not
It's only the first week of 2022 and already Yamazaki Distillery is bursting out the doors strong with an all new 2022 Edition that incorporates the Japanese favorite Mizunara Oak. Scanning the label, we also spot something interesting, this bottle seems to be part of a "Tsukuriwake" Selection, what's up with that?
Let's break it down.
Mizunara Oak - Yamazaki's Secret Sauce
First off, let's do a quick refresh on Mizunara Oak. Also known as Japanese Oak, as it is native to Japan, it is also called the Water Oak because of its high moisture content (in Japan, even the trees are well moisturised). This also makes the tree really porous and hard to work with as well because it grows in a warped fashion which means that the trees have to be at least 200 years old before usable thick, straight cuts can be made to be turned into barrels. Even so, the barrels are still prone to leakage and breaking.
Mizunara Oak is known to impart an incense scent that is likened to that of a temple. (Image Source: CaFleureBon)
So why go through all that effort if it is so difficult to use? That's because Mizunara imparts a unique and characteristic sandalwood/temple incense flavor profile, that is also accompanied by touches of coconut and light citrus, a flavor known as kara. In fact, Yamazaki's superb use of the kara flavor has made Japanese whiskies somewhat synonymous with the famed wood.
Yamazaki's status as a leading spirits producer in Japan has allowed the distillery to gain special access with local authorities to using Mizunara wood, which is otherwise restricted for preservation.
Mizunara Oak, gorgeous to look at, tasty to drink, but probably the nightmare of coopers trying to make that into a barrel. (Image Source: Wallpaper Flare)
Even so, the wood is also notorious for ruining whiskies by imparting pungent flavors that completely overpowers the whisky if it does not have a strong enough body or is not aged appropriately (a well-known lore says that whiskies must age for 20 years in Mizunara for it to truly take on its unique flavors and yet mellow out).
Which leads to the next keyword in the label, "Tsukuriwake" Selection.
To start off, the term Tsukuriwake refers to the philosophy of diversity in the making. Set in the context of whiskies, this is embodied in the blending of different flavors together to create a balanced and holistic whisky.
Tsukuriwake is so important to Suntory and Yamazaki that it is actually one of their core pillars of their whiskymaking philosophy; alongside Mizu Seichi - Pure Water, Shiki - the Four Seasons, Jukusei Taru - Aging and Casks, and Hito No Chowa - Team Spirit and Legacy.
Suntory has a big focus on Tsukuriwake as a core philosophy of whiskymaking that is embodied across their various distilleries, including Yamazaki. (Image Source: Suntory)
"Suntory Whisky distilleries produce over one hundred types of malt whisky; more than any other distillery in the world.
Suntory enables diversity through fermentation techniques, shapes and sizes of giant copper pot stills, and the wide variety of cask types used.
Diversity gives birth to the complex and subtle flavors of Suntory Whisky, creating richness and harmony."
Coming back to the term Tsukuriwake Selection on the label, we can piece together that this bottling of Yamazaki, which focuses on the use of Mizunara, is likely just a single style in what is probably a broader set of bottlings each bottled to highlight the diversity of styles of Yamazaki that together are blended harmoniously to create the ideal Yamazaki whisky.
The five styles of the Tsukuriwake Selection of Yamazaki. (Image Source: Bonhams)
A search back into Yamazaki's previous bottlings take us to 2020 where we find a set of 5 bottlings - Peated Malt, Spanish Oak, Mizunara, Bordeaux Wine Cask and Puncheon, which round up the five different styles that are together blended to create Yamazaki whisky.
We're even covered the 2020 Release here.
\his tells us that, with the kickoff of the new 2022 Edition Mizunara Oak "Tsukuriwake" Selection, we're likely to see this followed up by four more bottlings - a Peated Malt, Spanish Oak, Bordeaux Wine Cask and a Puncheon styled Yamazaki. That is if history repeats itself!
This is certainly exciting news, even if it has been released before. After all if you take a longitudinal look across whiskies, there's been a clear move towards isolating each component that makes up a whisky - from blends to single malts, and then to the various styles that make up a single malt. Hence any chance to taste what makes up a whisky is always going to be of significant interest.
Imagine if your job was boozy lunch, except it was 9-5. Yamazaki's Master Blender holds a key position in the distillery with its focus on blending and marrying a harmony of a diversity of styles. (Image Source: The Independent)
It certainly satisfies my curiosity to unpack a whisky, and even more amorphously a taste. To know how it is made, how a whisky can be expressed differently, how they can come together - the various mixing and matching and breaking down and building up, each carrying a distinctive character - that's how we appreciate the craft of whiskymaking!
That said, this is likely going to cost an eye-watering amount. If 2020 was any guide to go by, be prepared to pony up as much as $20,000 to satisfy that curiosity. Not one to be ageist, it should also be noted that this does not carry with it an age statement, which would make this potential NAS exceptionally pricy. Try it at your local bar instead!
Yamazaki Distillery's shop is famous for not just being a great Instagram shot, but also for holding a library of hundreds of styles of Yamazaki, reflecting its emphasis on blending. (Image Source: Japan Guide)
And so with a heavy heart, and a (too) light pocket, I offer my verdict.
Cop the Drop or Not Verdict: Not
If you enjoyed this article on the Yamazaki Mizunara 2022 Edition, you'll probably enjoy:
- The Water That Binds Japanese Tea, Sake and Whisky - Yamazaki Distillery Deep Dive
- Yamazaki 2020 Edition Series (aka do you have $20,000 to blow?)
- The 3 Different Styles of Whiskies Every Beginner Must Try