The entire Beam Suntory world whisky portfolio was on display at a special event deemed “Jul(e)p Hour”. As I walked into an old house on Royal Street in the French Quarter, I was met with the familiar sounds of New Orleans coming from a piano player in the corner. In this room, Beam Suntory’s Master Mixologist was mixing up a world whisky julep, featuring Auchentoshan Single Malt Scotch, Alberta Dark Rye Canadian Whisky, Jim Beam Bonded Bourbon, & Hibiki Harmony Japanese Blended Whisky. You know what, it was pretty tasty. This frankenstein concoction evolved nicely as the ice melted, bringing a level of complexity I don’t get in the standard bourbon mint julep.
I first ran across Hibiki 12 year old Japanese whisky right before they entered the U.S. market a few years ago. It was right around the Tales of the Cocktail time, and my fiancee Carly obtained a sample bottle for me. I was pretty stoked because I’d never had Japanese whisky before. I poured the sample and fell in love. It took about another year or so before I actually saw a bottle on the shelf. Needless to say, I picked up a bottle. That was about a year and a half ago.
Hibiki is a blended whisky put out by Suntory (yes, the same Suntory that now owns Jim Beam). It’s a blend of whiskies from its three distilleries: Yamazaki, Hakushu, and Chita. These distilleries produce malt whiskies except for the latter which distills grain whiskies. This particular release is 12 years old, which means the youngest whisky in the blend is 12 years old. There are many older whiskies here.
So, how is it? In two words: really good. On the nose there’s some fruitiness (plum), floral nots, some caramel, some smoke, but it all stays very light. I get different smells every time. Taste-wise, there’s lots happening here. Just like it’s aromas, Hibiki 12 year tastes very floral, with some honey and a touch of oak and caramel. I get a little citrus too. Orange maybe? The finish doesn’t linger – it’s short and pretty light.
Hibiki 12 year is 86 proof and will run you about $60. This is one I’ll always keep in stock. It’s that good… a very light and flavorful whiskey. BTW – this bottle looks like a million bucks on your whiskey shelf.