We tasted the 12 and 18 year whiskies, as well as a 25-year-old not available in the US. What's unique about these whiskies is the Japanese oak used to age some of it (they use five types of barrels- three American oak new or used bourbon, one Spanish oak sherry casks, and one Japanese oak), which impart an incense-spice flavor to the whisky.
Until I could identify the flavor on its own, I thought of it as very fine ground green and red pepper confetti, whereas American oak is a more coarse confetti. This is how my tongue identifies oak until my brain catches up.
Somewhere during the dinner the conversation took a turn to Britney Spears ( I blame Wondrich), though it didn't linger there too long after I started mocking them.
Miyamoto has worked on different production aspects of whisky in the US, Japan, and Scotland. The company has been making whisky in Japan since 1923, and studying it scientifically to try to achieve the best product. When he went to Scotland (after Suntory purchased a distillery there) to see what the Scots could teach them about making whisky, he says they were just coasting on their laurels and following tradition instead of studying and innovating.
Also unique about Yamazaki is that the product is changing. They are trying to make better product so they try to improve the equipment and processes rather than aim for consistency. They reduced the size of their stills to make a better whisky a couple of years ago, so we won't see how that tastes for another ten years. Miyamoto said, "If there is something you don't like about the whisky let us know and we'll change it."
They sure don't talk like that in Scotland.