Right, time is cracking on on Friday afternoon, so I’ll make this brief. After a splendid tasting by Suntory at TWE Vinopolis on Wednesday night I was rather disappointed that the 12 year-old Hibiki (which I’d tasted at Whisky Live and thought was excellent) hadn’t been shown. Imagine my delight when the stock turned up this afternoon .
Suntory Hibiki contains bourbon-aged malt from Hakushu, sherry casks from Yamazaki and grain whisky from the company’s Chita distillery. Intriguingly, a portion of the whiskies used have been aged in casks that used to hold Japanese plum liqueur (don’t know whether that’s for the malt or grain whiskies, though, or if it’s done after the blending).
Apparently the marriage is left to settle for four months before bottling. I also heard that there are only 200 cases of this for Europe on this run, with more not available until late autumn.
Anyway, this has been eagerly anticipated amongst the faithful, and I thought I’d better make sure that my initial impressions from my sample at Whisky Live were correct. So here goes:
Suntory Hibiki 12 year old Blend, 43% ,70cl:
Colour: Aurulent (Gold-Coloured) or Melichrous (Honey-like). Maybe Luteous (Golden-yellow).
Nose: Very fruity, with ripe oranges, apple pie, marmalade and plums (would I have still got those plums if I didn’t know about the plum liqueur maturation? I’d like to hope so). Fresh honeysuckle and nougat aromas, sugared almonds, sponge cake, icing sugar. Expressive and exciting.
Palate: Smooth as a snooker ball, with delicious fresh grain, oak tannins and delicately sherried malt. Some clove, pepper and mixed peel as the sherry comes forward. The citrus is here as well, if slightly more tart like lemon or grapefruit.
Finish: Spices, apple peel and the last remnants of the finely-tuned grain. Nothing dominates, everything in place – the integration and balance are quite remarkable. The spices seem to build in intensity at the finale.
Comments: Slips down easier than a greased eel in an oilslick. This is tremendous. A hugely impressive feat of blending that proves, if there were any remaining doubt, that Japanese whisky can equal or beat anything produced in Scotland at this moment in time. Bravo.