The original was delicious, but could this one be better?

Last year, Suntory released a canned highball version of one of its most popular Japanese whiskies, Hakushu. It’s so good that our Hakushu-loving Japanese-language reporter K. Masami thought it could be served as-is at a bar. But late last month a new challenger entered the ring, and Masami was eager to try it out.

The new challenger in question is the Suntory Premium Highball Hakushu Sherry Cask Matured Blend. Whereas the original Hakushu whisky has a smoky and refreshing flavor, sherry cask-matured whisky tends to have a sweeter, richer, and fuller-bodied taste. Since Masami is a huge fan of Hakushu’s smoky flavor, she was curious to see if she’d like this new blend. In fact, to make our taste test more interesting, she decided pit the new blend versus the old.

This proved to be easier said than done, though, as the first version was so popular that Masami had some difficulty finding it in stores. It was originally sold for a limited time, so she’d had to stock up while she could. Luckily she had just enough leftover to complete the taste test along with a few extra for simple enjoyment.

▼ Masami’s stock of the original “smoky” version

▼ The original (left) and the newcomer (right)

The Sherry Cask Matured Blend is similar to the original in a number of ways: it’s the same 600 yen (US$4.15) price, it contains 9 percent alcohol, and Suntory recommends it be served on the rocks.

▼ The label on the back for the Sherry Cask Matured Blend promises some of that Hakushu smokiness along with a little something extra.

▼ First, Masami had some of the original Hakushu blend to refresh her memory.

It was still as delicious as the first time she tried one, and she still can’t believe it came out of a can, instead of being mixed for her personally by a bartender.

▼ Then she poured the new version.

The first obvious difference is the color, looking much yellower than the original. As for the taste, Masami had been expecting it to be a bit different since sherry cask-matured whisky has a quite unique taste…but she didn’t expect it to be this different! She could definitely taste that it was Hakushu, but the lingering notes were totally different.

She could taste bitterness, smokiness, and sweetness all individually, and when it trailed down her throat, they all blended together in a perfect harmony. It was like an intensified version of the original, and it instantly became her new favorite.

If you enjoy Hakushu straight or on the rocks, Masami thinks you’ll enjoy the Sherry Cask Matured version more. But if you think about it seasonally, she thinks that the lighter original flavor would be better suited to the hot summer months while the new version is better for colder seasons.

Masami decided to stock up on these, but she’s already having difficulty finding more of this limited release. We wish her good luck on her search and wait with bated breath for the next new flavor!

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