Thursday, August 22, 2013

Suntory Southern Alps Pure Malt 40% abv


Nose: Extremely clean and fresh with handsome subtle oak (slightly toasted?). Sliced baked banana, vanilla crepes sprinkled with malt powder, a lovely suggestion of Umeshu (plum liqueur), and teasing aromas of Chicos, which are at the forefront of sweetness. Mid-ground in my opinion is where the true evidence of Hakushu lays - fresh forest pine, wet ferns, green pine cones, green apple skins, and light concentrated sweet lime. 

Taste: White pepper, nutmeg on semi-baked opened green banana (skin intact), subtle oak (again slightly toasty?), bitter but pleasant malt, and green apple skins. Extremely clean mouthfeel with an interesting element of chopped candied green cherry (fruit cake type). Very refreshing and it feels right with the humidity right now here in Japan.

Finish: Short but it feels ever so right. The white pepper soldiers on along with the nutmeg. There is a pleasant acidity still in play - green crispy apple skin.

Comment: According to various Japanese websites this pure malt ceased production in the late 90’s. It has taken me a good four years to find a bottle so that in itself indicates the rarity of this clean, lovely malt. Apparently Suntory used a charcoal (Birch wood) filtration process for the malt, which was the in thing at the time to achieve clean cut, spring like qualities for easy drinking. I’ve always said that the best pure malt produced by Suntory is their defunct Hokuto 12yo. However, this Southern Alps gives it a run for its money. I’m going to do a back to back so I will let you know the end result of the two (which one I favour the most). Then again they are in different leagues - flavour profile wise.

13 comments:

  1. Congratulations Clint.
    I am not sure you are going to pick a favorite out of the two with the creaminess of the "Hokuto" and the freshness of the SA complementing each other nicely.
    Both were wonderful bargains back in the day, though as you mention the SA a lot harder to find.

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    1. Hi Brian, you are right - I could not decide on a favourite out of the two as they both have their own unique qualities making them equally likable. The SA is on the money for its ultra clean and fresh style while the Hokuto 12yo wins all the points for creaminess and well crafted blend of two malts. Both were extremely affordable once, now its a different story. I find it interesting that such lush whiskies were once available at local supermarkets retailing for pocket change - once defunct and scarce you really cannot put a price value on them - a historical value yes. While replying I've just had sudden taste flashbacks of the Hokuto 12yo, perhaps suggestive of my preferred palate?

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    2. Btw: I have nosed this (Southern Alps) further today (5 days after opening) and the nose has certainly become creamy which IMO was not evident at the start. Lets see if the palate is also creamy after a week.

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  2. This was extremely interesting to read, Clint. I had never even heard of the Southern Alps Pure Malt. May I ask if this was on your target list or whether you simply stumbled upon it? Guess I should know the answer... Charcoal filtering, that reminds me of Tennessee whiskey. Supremely interesting, I would love to get to try this. I follow Brian and congratulate you on your find. Well done!

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    1. Hi Pierre, funny you should mention this as it was not on my target list. To be honest I was looking for the GH 14yo and/or Karuizawa OBs. I'd like to get a few more OBs under my belt so to speak before prices become so ridiculous even they become out of my reach. Once that last Zawa cask gets bottled prices will change dramatically for OBs. Back to the Southern Alps, I gave up a very long time ago trying to find this, and this time around I actually over looked it, it was not on my second/third circle around the shop I spotted it with great joy. To be honest I mistook it for perhaps a wine as it was amongst some Mercian bottled wine, and the light colour played with my vision ha ha. As mentioned I've personally never come across it before in all my whisky hunting years so I was extremely excited as you can imagine. I shall keep a drop aside for you if you are that keen to try it. As for the charcoal filtration, interesting indeed, I've heard this process being used before (besides Tennessee) - perhaps it was also used for the Shioke?

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    2. Sorry Pierre, regarding the charcoal filtration - I mentioned "Shikoe" may have used the same technique. However, that was meant to read "Kioke".

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  3. The first time I heard about this one was from JM's Whisky Bible back in 2010. I've never had another copy of the WB as that one was given to me with a whisky purchase. JM described how rare it was to find a bottle even in Japan, so I was pretty stoked to have been able to buy 2. One opened, well you would have read my review from a while back, and one closed. JM loved it and whether you like his reviews/opinions/ego or not, I found that at least in regards to Japanese whisky in that copy of the WB, he was far more balanced in his reviews than most of the Johnny come lately sensationalists.

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    1. Thanks for that input, Brian. I actually never thought to check if it was in the WB. I've got a few myself but haven't turned pages in a while. Interesting, so when he describes it being rare to find a bottle even in Japan does this mean he was actually on the hunt ? Ha ha. Your opened bottle, has it changed dramatically towards midway or the last couple of hundred mls, that is to say you have any left :)

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  4. Well in honor I've poured dram. Not noticing much difference. Maybe a little more oak and honey? Some sort of oiliness, but I haven't referred back to my notes. Certainly puts the pure in Pure Malt.
    Like the "Hokuto" 12, I wish Suntory never stopped producing this one.

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    1. Thanks for that update, Brian. I should have really linked your review like I oftern do but I forgot this time around. If readers of WRU have not done so already take a look at Brian's review as an alternate over at TJWR. Interesting, so not much of a change? For me it has become creamy on the nose, not like the creaminess of Hokuto but its now evident than when first cracked. The honey sounds good. I see Mr.Murray gave this 93 points, saying "just looking at the bottle makes me salvate". Always the way isn't it, when distilleries are onto to something good production stops. This gem along with Hokuro 12yo should be a perminent fixture in the line-up. Perhaps a revival Suntory?

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  5. The oiliness could be interchanged with creaminess as they both coat the mouth. Whatever. Great stuff!

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  6. I didnt even know it existed until your review.

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  7. Hi David,
    Yeah it is a whisky that is not oftern seen or talked about. I have many Japanese malt mates that never knew of it, which says something. Mind you many of the native malt mates never really drank Japanese whisky until now, it was always Scotch for them around the time of this bottling. If you find it do not hesitate in picking it up - good luck though, it is like finding a needle in a hay stack.

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