The newest Japanese whisky to hit the U.S. market is Suntory's Hakushu - known as the "Forest Distillery." Built in 1973 as a sister distillery to Suntory's Yamazaki distillery (previously the only Japanese single malt available in the U.S.), the facility is located at a high-elevation site next to the "pristine waters" of the Ojira River, which are used to dillute the whisky itself. Hakushu distillery uses different styles of oak barrel to age their single malt, but mainly Hogshead, which according to the distillery is "suitable to the clear air and cool humid climate."
The 12 year old from Hakushu is lightly peated and very delicate in its flavor profile. The light and fruity style of the whisky is quite similar to the Yamazaki 12, but the smoke really makes up for the lack of richness. Because most of Japan drinks their younger malts with ice and water, the Hakushu is definitely another whisky designed for that purpose, which may turn off some of the single malt sippers stateside. However, even straight at room temperature, the Hakushu really delivers quality flavors for the price point. Think Talisker, but distinctly less round or supple. So far I've really enjoyed tinkering with it in different forms - as a Highball, with an ice cube, and just plain neat. This is one of the most enjoyable bottles I've purchased in some time. We only have about 18 left of the initial 60 and that will be all until 2012!