See our introduction to Japanese whisky post for some general background on the famed Suntory distillery.
Unlike their Scottish counterparts who typically focus their efforts on single malts while blends take a backseat, the Japanese take blending very seriously. In fact Suntory distills whisky in different sized stills specifically for their blends. Suntory launched Hibiki in 1989 to commemorate their 90th anniversary. Hibiki means “resonance” in Japanese and Suntory aims for this whisky to represent a harmony between nature and people. This balanced whisky surely lives up to it’s namesake.
Hibiki 12 contains malt from Yamazaki and Hakushu as well as some aged grain from Chita. This dram gets its unique flavors from bamboo charcoal filtering, Japanese Mizunara oak and Umeshu casks (which previously held plum liqueur). While most of the malt used in the blend is 12 years or older, there is purportedly some rare 30 year old whisky in the blend as well.
As a testament to Suntory’s never ending quest for perfection the Hibiki brand has been named “World’s Best Blended Whisky” by the World Whisky Awards five out of seven times.The beautiful Hibiki bottle has 24 facets to represent the 24 months in the traditional Japanese calendar. It’s an ode to the whisky’s rich Japanese heritage.
Nose: honey, fragrant citrus orange, vanilla
Mouth: pleasantly light and smooth, plum sweetness upfront, oak, orange peels
Finish: wonderfully intense, spicy oak, apple, lingering sweet oak, over a few minutes it gently fades
Verdict: This is my new go-to daily sipping whisky. Although I prefer smoky Islays, that type of dram can’t be consumed on a typical weeknight. Hibiki 12 achieves great balance and has a nice smooth texture which makes it an everyday sipper. The flavors are highly enjoyable and accessible to anyone even remotely interested in whisky. This is the first blended whisky I’ve reviewed on the blog and I’m glad it was Hibiki 12. As I was finishing my tasting, I found myself wanting to refill my glass to have another fill of this wonderful whisky. Once you start sipping this easy dram it’s tough to stop.
Where to Buy
67 Wines & Spirits – 179 Columbus Ave New York, NY 10023
Astor Wines & Spirits – 399 Lafayette St New York, NY 10003
Park Avenue Liquor Shop – 292 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10017
Where to Sip
– 37 W. 26th St. New York, NY 10010
On the Rocks – 696 10th Ave New York, NY 10019