While Japanese whisky is just over century old and only a handful of distilleries exist, this hasn’t stopped it from creating a unique, much loved style. Receiving particular acclaim in the western world, winning a number of prestigious accolades, it certainly is experiencing growing popularity even amongst the most traditional Whisky drinker.
One such Japanese Distillery which has made a name for itself in the past century is Suntory. Launching Hibiki in 1989 to commemorate their 90th anniversary, the distillery has gone from strength to strength. Interestingly Suntory distills whisky in various sized stills specifically for their blends. This differs from their Scottish counterparts who typically focus more on single malts than blends and really highlights the importance the Japanese put on blending. Hibiki itself means ‘resonance’ and Suntory wanted this whisky to represent a harmony between nature and people. The whisky definitely lives up to this name!
Hibiki 12 contains malt from both Hakusha and Yamazaki, along with aged grain from its neighbor China. The whisky receives its interesting flavours from bamboo charcoal filtering, Mizunara oak and Umeshu casks which previously housed plum liqueur. Most of the malt in this whisky is 12 years or older, but there is some rarer 30-year-old whisky in the blend too.
It should be noted that the Hibiki brand was named “World’s Best Blended Whisky” by the World Whisky Awards, five out of seven times! Quite an achievement indeed. Not only that, the whisky is also visually appealing, with 24 facets to represent the 24 months in the traditional Japanese calendar.
Now to the important part! How does it taste? Well as always, it is vital to go through the three steps of a whisky tasting.
Nose: On first scent, beautiful orange peel and some surprising floral aromas can be identified. The grain component is yeasty and soft. Hints of honeysuckle can be identified and even the exciting scent of sugared almonds!
Palate: Beautifully smooth with flavours of stewed fruits, sherried malt, fresh grain and oak tannins. There is slight citrus taste also which adds a hint of tart.
Finish: Lovely bright and flavoursome finish. Spices, apple peel and some grain. Very well balanced. The spices build in intensity at the end. Very enjoyable…clean and crisp.
Overall a very elegant Japanese whisky (The awards really speak for themselves!)
Make sure you try Hibiki 12 next time you stop by at Garavan’s. Check out the below video, to learn more about 'The art of Japanese whisky'.