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Celebrating St. Patrick’s with Kentucky, Tennessee—and Japan

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Suntory 12-Year-Old by Suntory: A stunner that will have you turning Japanese.

I celebrated St. Patrick’s Day with a bourbon, a "Tennessee whiskey" and a Japan blended whiskey.

I know, I know, St. Patrick’s Day is supposed to be enjoyed with Irish whiskey. So sue me. But let’s be honest: With the changing characteristics of every type of whiskey, is it really that big a deal anymore? Hell, at a recent Balvenie tasting, I was informed the lovely juice in my glass was partly aged in bourbon casks. A dram is a dram is a dram, I say.

So, in the spirit of getting in the spirit with a variety of spirits, I decided to try not one, not two, but three whiskies I had previously never sampled. Thanks to a recent visit to California and BevMo!, two of the whiskies I had cannot currently be purchased in Nevada.

We’ll start with the whiskey that can be bought here, and it’s a fantastic one: Hibiki 12-Year-Old, a product of Suntory in Japan. If that name sounds vaguely familiar, there’s a good reason: It was the product Bill Murray’s character hawked in the wonderful 2003 movie Lost in Translation. After years of hemming and hawing, it was finally “Suntory Time” for yours truly.

Suntory distributes many products in the United States, including Yamazaki, Hakushu and Hibiki. The 12-Year-Old is a blend of a variety of single-malt whiskies, aged in various casks, including one for plum liqueur. The result is an extremely unique whiskey with endless flavors emerging as you sip—this might be the first whiskey I’ve ever had where I can taste tropical fruit! It clocks in at 86 proof, and is ridiculously easy to drink.

Now on to the two products you’ll have to work to find:

George Dickel Barrel Select — A wonderful bourbon, courtesy of this Tennessee distillery. (A quick bit of business before we continue—this is a bourbon, although its parent company, Diageo, prefers to call it and its Tennessee cousin, Jack Daniel’s, “Tennessee whiskey.” Go figure.) It’s double-distilled with a column still and pot still, and clocks in at 86 proof. George Dickel No. 12, which you can purchase in Nevada, is a good whiskey, but it can’t hold a candle to this product. Talk about a unique taste, especially for bourbon lovers! Both the nose and taste will have hardened veterans raising their eyebrows as their expectations are completely surpassed. There’s pineapple in the nose (there's that tropical fruit again!) along with a hint of leather and corn, and the taste gives you vanilla, spearmint and plenty of honey. This is worth whatever it takes to get hold of a bottle, especially given its reasonable $40 price tag.

Rock Hill Farms — A masterpiece from Buffalo Trace, the same company that currently gives us the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection and, more recently, Pappy Van Winkle. At 100 proof, this bourbon has plenty of heat, and get ready for a nose of gargantuan proportions: honey, cider, mint and plenty of corn. But the taste is what puts this one over the top, with a richness and spiciness that will just keep you coming back for one more taste. I’m starting to notice a trend of excellence with BT products. Too bad this isn’t available locally.

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Ken Miller is Las Vegas Weekly's associate editor, having previously served as assistant features editor at the Las Vegas Sun ...

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