Hibiki is a whisky that I haven’t tried in a very long time. It means a lot to me though. I would even dare say it was crucial in my whisky discovery, among the three whiskies that sparked my interest around 25 years ago. Of course back then it was a relatively affordable option, but it led me to specialized stores nonetheless (where Guy Boyen turned the spark into a proper fire). While I don’t expect it to have the same impact as it had in my early days, I do think this belated review is well deserved.
Due to the popularity, Suntory discontinued the 12 year old version in 2015 and replaced it with the current Hibiki Japanese Harmony without an age statement. Although most Hibiki expressions returned a few years later, they are now significantly more expensive. The whisky is still not available in high volumes, but a couple of limited editions were launched, like Master’s Select and Blossom Harmony.
Hibiki Japanese Harmony contains malt and grain whisky from Yamazaki, Hakushu and Chita distilleries. The spirit ages in five types of casks, including rare Japanese oak Mizunara, as well as sherry and bourbon casks.
Hibiki Japanese Harmony (43%, OB +/- 2023)
Nose: nice and fresh. Vibrant lemons, green apples and nectarines, with natural vanilla. Then light honey, candied orange peel and whiffs of sandalwood in the distance. Hints of jasmine, which makes it even more Japanese in my opinion. Over time woody notes come forward, with fresh oak shavings and grassy notes. Pleasant.
Mouth: smooth indeed, finding a good balance between clear oaky notes (vanilla, white pepper, oak shavings) and fruity sweetness (pear, orange). Plenty of biscuity hints in the middle, as well as dried ginger and a little coconut cream. At this point it becomes a little generic, with echoes of old grain whisky or bourbon whiskey. Sweet wood is taking the upper hand.
Finish: not too long, still focusing on the oaky flavours.
The nose of this Hibiki is classy and convincing – this should definitely make beginners interested in whisky. For real connoisseurs it is too generic on the palate though. A tad too focused on youngish woody notes as well. Overall this is a very polite and polished whisky, a reasonable entry-level choice if you find it at a good price. Available from several retailers, and cheaper in the UK than in mainland Europe. Check The Whisky Exchange or Master of Malt for instance.