Hakushu 18 Year Review [In Depth]

Hakushu 18 Year

Alex author
Founder, writer
hakushu 18 year header

Hakushu 18 Year Details

Distillery: Hakushu

Type & Region: Japanese whisky, Japan

Alcohol: 43%

Composition: 100% malted barley

Aged: 18 Year

Color: 1.2/2.0 on the color scale (Chestnut, oloroso shery)

Price: $550+

From the company website:

From Suntory’s mountain forest distillery, nestled deep in Mt. Kaikomagatake, Suntory Single Malt Whisky Hakushu® is the crisp and gently smoky single malt whisky with herbal notes that is the revelation of Japanese single malts.

Hakushu 18 Year overview

Yamazaki and Hibiki are probably two of the most recognizable Japanese whiskey brands on the planet, and Yamazaki 18 year is one of the most sought after ones. Yamazaki has skyrocketed to fame for reasons I don’t know (besides that it’s delicious), and Hibiki has Bill Murray and Lost in Translation (the movie). Not that it’s necessarily a lesser known brand, but Suntory’s other single malt brand, Hakushu, flies under the radar in comparison. I don’t know why, but that’s always the impression that I get.
Before I get on my soapbox, Hakushu 18 year is an 18 year old single malt Japanese whiskey. That means that it was completely distilled and aged in Japan. The only things that don’t have to come from Japan are the barley malt, barrels used for aging, and I guess the distilling equipment.
While Yamazaki is known for more sherry influence, and an extra bit of mizunara oak, Hakushu is better known for ex-bourbon cask and peat influence. It’s not known to be as peaty as something like Laprhaoig, but it’s not completely absent as it is in most Yamazaki releases.
The distillery is located in the mountains of Yamanashi prefecture, a few hours away from Tokyo by train. It’s an absolutely gorgeous area filled with forest, nature, and peace. I can see why someone would want to build a distillery there, because it’s heaven. If you can find a way to do a tour, I highly recommend that you do jump on the opportunity.
Now for my brief soapbox. In my area at least, Hakushu is exceedingly hard to find, even at anywhere near close to the obscenely high MSRP. Honestly, I see more marked-up BTAC (Buffalo Trace Antique Collection) / Pappy on shelves than I do Hakushu 18 at any price. There just aren’t that many bottles to go around in the US. Then again, most BTAC stays in the US while Hakushu probably predominately stays in Japan and some small amount is exported elsewhere.
While demand has a part in Hakushu 18 Year’s limited availability, very low supply also has a lot to do with it. For now, there just isn’t much 18 year old Japanese single malt whiskey to go around. As hard as it might be to believe, Japanese whiskey was not popular for years, so distilleries closed or decreased production.
When demand started to grow, I’d say into the early 2000’s, distilleries were caught off guard and had to scramble to ramp up production. The problem is that 12, 18, 21, or however old whiskey takes that long to age…it naturally can’t be rushed. So with greater demand for things like Hakushu 12, 18, or whatever, Hakushu inevitably couldn’t keep up, only ramp up for the future. That all led to severe shortages that couldn’t come close to meeting demand.
That also led to much higher prices. At least when I wrote this review in early 2024, MSRP was around $550. That’s crazy high when 25+ year single malt Scotch (with some exceptions) commands those prices…but I admit that I paid about that much for it. I saw my one chance, and I took it. In Japan, secondary prices are surpassing $1000. Japan’s Japanese whiskey market is insane.
Because you’re definitely less crazy than I am, your other options to try this, apart from buying a bottle, are to get reasonably priced pours when you visit Hakushu or Yamazaki. I think 1oz pours were maybe $10-15, something actually not too bad. When I visited Hakushu, I did in fact try some Hakushu 18 Year. For better or worse, I now have a bottle.
Let’s find out what this extra old Hakushu has to offer in this Hakushu 18 Year review.
hakushu 18 FRONT box

As an FYI, I bought and use these Glencairn glasses for everything (they’re the best): Glencairn Crystal Whiskey Glass Set of 6, Set of 4Set of 2, or just one. Full transparency, this is an affiliate link, so I may earn a commission if you buy this or something else from Amazon.

Hakushu 18 Year smell

Hakushu 18 Year smells incredible with honey, passionfruit, grapefruit, papaya, roasted malt, toasted oak, cinnamon, dark chocolate, fennel, green grape, mint, some darker apricot, and this all encompassing floralness. This honestly takes me back to Colombia when I was smelling and eating all sorts of tropical fruits.
This is a fresh fruit basket from the fruit market that’s very expressive, bright, and tropical with nice density and roundness. The whiskey has a really nice fullness and “nose feel”, although the scents themselves aren’t necessarily super bold to fully fill that round space. This really demands a 100 proof version, because oh man that would smell spectacular.
The scents are similar after swirling and 15 minutes of rest, which is still an amazing experience. Hakushu 18 year continues to be a wonderfully bright, vibrant, and tropical single malt with tons of rich honey, grapefruit, passionfruit, starfruit, and papaya, followed by some toasted oak, toasted biscuit, clove, mint, and fennel. In some ways, it feels like an MGP rye with all those vibrant tropical notes. While Hakushu clearly states that it’s peated, it’s so gentle for me that I really can’t smell it.
At 43% ABV, Hakushu 18 Year is very rich, vibrant, and fresh, and it begs for a higher proof. Who knows if it’ll ever happen, but it would be ridiculous if it were ever released because this smells so good.
hakushu 18 back box (1)

Hakushu 18 Year taste and aftertaste

The flavors start with rich honey, orange, papaya, passionfruit, starfruit, and toasted malt followed by lightly toasted oak, green grape, cinnamon, and a hint of roasty kick, bitterness, and smoke in the back. The peat is very light at best. Hakushu 18 Year is beautifully fruity and tropical with good viscosity and roundness.
In my mind at least, this tastes like one of the fruit salads I ate in Bogota that was full of super fresh and local sliced tropical fruits. It was delightful, but I wish that it were bolder and fuller, which would come with a higher ABV. I guess on the plus side, there’s no heat.
With strong “chewing”, I get rich honey, toasted biscuit, grapefruit, starfruit, papaya, pineapple, toasted oak, clove, green grape, fennel, mint, and just a hint of smoke and dried mushrooms. Hakshu 18 Year still tastes amazing. It’s bright, peppy, vibrant, tropical, and so much fun to drink. It’s just so so so good.
As tropical as it is, really hard “chewing” does bring forth a little bit more peat in the form of smoke, dried mushroom, and barbeque.
The finish starts with honey, grapefruit, papaya, green grape, starfruit, toasted oak, cinnamon, and hints of roasted coffee and smoke with lingering sweet smoke, toasted oak, and barbeque. The smoke doesn’t really show up until the finish.
After “chewing”, Hakushu 18 Year leaves vibrant honey, grapefruit, starfruit, and papaya, then toasted oak, toasted biscuit, clove, mint, and licorice with gentle lingering smoke and mint.
Hakushu 18’s body and viscosity are very good, although the flavors don’t have quite as much fullness and impact as it would suggest. I prefer the bolder flavors, but the trade-off is that it’s super approachable and easy to drink. You and a few friends could probably finish the bottle in one sitting without realizing it, yet still enjoy the heck out of it. It’s an expensive bottle, but it’s meant to be shared.
While this is so good at 43% ABV, I can feel the water diluting some of the potent and powerful character that’s in there.
hakushu 18 year FRONT
I’ve unfortunately lost some Glencairn’s while in transit, and that made me very sad. So, I wised up and bought this Glencairn Travel Case that comes also comes with 2 glasses so I don’t need to worry so much about them breaking. I think it’s great, and I think you’ll love it too. Seriously, if you already have glasses, protect them.

Hakushu 18 Year Rating

Top Shelf
Ugh, Hakushu 18 Year is so good…and SO RIDICULOUSLY EXPENSIVE. The price doesn’t factor into the rating, but I just have to reiterate that obvious fact. Shoot, oftentimes you’ll see this for closer to $700-800. This is pure frivolous luxury, so value is irrelevant.
Anyway, Hakushu 18 Year smells and tastes fantastic. It is a wonderfully vibrant, fruity, tropical, and lightly herbal and smoky experience that I enjoy so much. It’s a delightful expression of what aging single malt whiskey in bourbon casks can do…fruit salad (using the good fruit) in a glass.
Let me be clear though, Hakushu 18 Year is absolutely not worth it for 98% of people. You can buy so much booze for $550-800. But if you have the money, I don’t think the price matters all that much because you want it and can afford it.
But for most people, as much as you might want it, you’re not necessarily missing out on much by getting a bourbon cask-matured Scotch instead, of which there are tons of them. The sub-$100 Bruichladdich 10 Year will even get you close enough. You can even delve into Taiwanese Whiskey, such as from Kavalan.
This probably isn’t that helpful of a statement, but from memory I think that the $150-200 Yoichi 10 Year really isn’t that far off either, and you still get the Japanese whiskey part. Hakushu 18 is a little bit darker, but other than that Hakushu isn’t $300-500 better. If you’ve had Yoichi 10 Year, which is luxurious and expensive in its own right, you more or less know what to expect.
So yeah, Hakushu 18 Year is amazing, but it’s truly an ultra luxury single malt whiskey meant for the very few that cost as much as it does because of the name, Suntory’s affinity for absurdly high prices, and the limited stocks they have.
I promise, not that you’ll necessarily believe me, but you’re not necessarily missing out on it. Easier said than done since I have a bottle.
Alex author
Meet the Author: Alex

I have far too much fun writing about whiskey and singlehandedly running The Whiskey Shelf to bring you independent, honest, and useful reviews, comparisons, and more. I’m proudly Asian American and can speak Cantonese, Mandarin, and some Japanese.

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Shattered glass really sucks, so if you’re on the move, this Glencairn-like stainless steel snifter glass should survive your travels. Full transparency, this is an Amazon affiliate link, so I may earn a commission if you buy this or something else from Amazon.

BrüMate NOS’R, Double-Wall Stainless Steel Whiskey Nosing Glass – 7oz (Matte Black)