Whisky Review: Hibiki 響 12 Years Old

Style: Fruity and Grainy

Nose:

Crisp red apples immersed into honey toffee. Coconut cream gradually drawn into the core. Cranberries brimming positively, then comes a whiff of barley grains. Dry grass, even a touch of nutmeg at the tail. Simple, calm fruity tone. Pretty neat.

Palate:

Red and green apples lightly coated with golden syrup. Red fruits beginning to surface, cranberries and pears infused with brittle barley husks, cinnamon dust and subtle cloves. Milk chocolate smoothie, sweet fruitiness sitting pretty at the middle, while dry chalky notes emerging at the back. Tannic oak sinks in, malt and peppermint fizzing gently to finish.

Finish:

Soft red fruits, apple slices and cranberry cream gathering momentum at the very end. Barley and oak lightly dipped in honey water.

Thoughts:

It feels all Hibiki follows a similar recipe, but because of its age, it delivers a brighter vibe. Clean, simple structure with multiple elements – whether it be the sherry (or plum?) malt, grain, or I suspect, Mizunara, each element playing a distinct part to contribute to the expression. Well, the bitterness lingers a bit too long and too much for my liking, but all in all, it is a simple, positive dram we have here.

✓ [Recommended if you like the style/ distillery]

[43% • Blended Japanese Whisky • General Release • Circa 2014 Bottled • Discontinued • t]

-Esmond

Whisky Review: Hibiki 響 17 Years Old

Style: Smooth, Caramel fruits and Grains

Nose:

Caramelized pears dressed around delicious ripe banana puree. Subtle barley husk scattered on top, grain signatures craftily wrapped up to give a beautiful touch. Orchard fruits surfing on the second caramel wave, perfect heat, vanilla with garden herbs, especially basil, singing softly at the edges. Perfect sweet/dry balance. Elegant aroma.

Palate:

Vanilla cloud clustered together and raining down white chocolate-coated crystallized pineapples and other tropical fruits. Side brushes of honeydew and cranberries – a strong fruit-vanilla front is formed. Malt and grain gradually becoming louder in shattered form as the sweetness is starting to wane from mid-palate. The dryness sinks lower as white pepper and oak join in to form base notes, while the surface is thinly laminated with a layer of vanilla milk.

Finish:

Agar agar drifting on top while oak-infused mocha rooted at the bottom. Coconut notes becoming more prominent towards the end.

Thoughts:

It has been a while since I revisited Hibiki 17 and I am surprised how grain-driven this whisky is. Maybe it is just me, or the recent batches are like this… Anyway, it feels this Hibiki plays on the synergy of fruit and grain components to highlight a good sweet/dry balance – a simple, but elegant solution. While the aroma is near-impeccable, but the partition of the sweetness and dryness is more evident on the palate which loses part of that synergy. That said, it is still a lovely, smooth blend which, unfortunately, costs stupid money these days.

✓ [Recommended if you like the style/ distillery]

[43%・Blended Japanese Whisky・General Release・Discontinued・Circa 2016 Bottled・t]

-Esmond

Whisky Review: Hibiki 響 21 Years Old 花鳥風月 Special Edition

Style: Delicate and Complex

Nose:

Delicate red plums, sweet with a dab of sourness, maple syrup bacon, nicely accompanied by semi-dry vanilla painted cereal notes. Light breeze of green sappy pine, sugar cane then we have round apricots and peaches at the core. Almond flakes fade, brown sugar emerges towards to the end. All the pieces are neatly assembled together… Immensely complex and elegant nose.

Palate:

Red fruits, plums and dark cherries chorusing tenderly while the grain element rises with great composure and orchestrates the movement. Vanilla, hazelnut and macadamia leading to the prevailing fruitiness at the core – stewed apricots and assorted dried fruits. The sticky sweetness is well-balanced by a crème brulee undertone. Waning back palate with lesser white oak lightly powdered by pepper.

Finish:

Soft white oak influence lingering. Followed by egg pudding, green pears and berries compote. Finish with silky raisin chocolate.

Thoughts:

This is a special edition for travel retail but I was told that this whisky is no different to the regular Hibiki 21 bottling. But wow, how good is this! Silky, delicious but also so complex that makes you cannot resist refilling your glass and keep exploring it. Layers of flavours elegantly weaved together. Although I love my whiskies at higher alcohol level/intensity, on the technical side, this is probably the best blended whisky I have come across so far. Sensational whisky.

☆☆ [Highly Recommended]

[43% • 2015 Bottled • Original Bottling • Blended Whisky • **]

-Esmond

Dram Review: Hibiki Mellow Harmony

[43.0%・NAS・Bottled in 2013・Official Bottling・Limited Release]

Nose:

A sweet raisin nose initially, it’s indeed very mellow, mildly winey.  Sweet plums with a soft hint of vanilla and smoke. Very Hibiki-esque, a harmony of fresh, clean and smooth vibes.

Palate & Finish:

A vanilla driven palate with a hint of salt with the juicy plum fruitiness coming through, mint and cucumber along with light but lively spices.  Pepper and smoke on the back end.

That unique woodiness is vaguely evident in the finish with traces of ash and peat. The plum note is there in the background, mouthwatering.  Tender but that touch of peat is truly a pleasant surprise that makes this dram rather special.

Thoughts:

A very charming whisky.  I am aware that a lot of casual whisky drinkers are big fans of Hibiki and this bottle in particular is pure pleasantness.

☆[Recommended]

-Nicholas

Bang for your buck: Hibiki Japanese Harmony Master’s Select

[43.0%・NAS・Bottled Circa. 2015-2016・Limited Release]

Seemingly half our conversations these days with our malt friends revolve around how whiskies are just getting so expensive these days and so this is something we are giving a trial here (Cheers to Hodinkee for the inspiration); giving our picks of what we think are “bargains”, if there is one such things these days…

Once again, the Hibiki 12 and 17 flew off the shelves in Sydney shops like a locust infestation. A couple of the more opportunistic stores are pricing the 12 at $140 and the 17 at as high as $299 and still managed to push them with ease.

There’s no doubt the Hibiki, as a blended whisky, has long been highly regarded by some whisky lovers and the more occasional drinkers alike. However, the current pricing in Australia is making some previous supporters think twice, or even skip it completely.

All is not lost though, Suntory has followed up on the launch of Japanese Harmony last year by somewhat quietly making the Japanese Harmony Master’s Select available at Sydney Duty Free.

Notes:

Sweet European oak showing a surprising presence on the nose, there is a cola note that fizzles out intermixed with mandarin marmalade. The grain spices have been kept at a moderation. Powdery delivery of muscovado sugar and a candied ginger note with hint of delicate smoke.

Palate & Finish:

The grain element is more evident upon the first sip but the indulgently sweet prune sauce note note unlike the sherry cask sets in shortly after. A hint of cola gummy bear with a vague touch of dark chocolate truffle. Leather and tobacco in small quantities to of with the modest spices.

A tender finishing of poached dark fruits, with just a hint of oak tannins sipping out to go with the fragrant notes from the malt and grain, and to add a tad of complexity to go the otherwise comforting and non-challenging dramming experience.

Thoughts:

This is a well made, finely curated blend that embodies the craft of the blenders along with the philosophy of Japanese whiskies. It’s sweet and delicate and in my opinion just what you want from a Hibiki, a vast improvement on the Japanese Harmony with that addition of sherry influence acting as a agent to release more of that signature fruitiness. If you are a Hibiki fan, you will appreciate this; and if you are not, you won’t be offended by it.

The display photo shows the “limited edition” that’s priced rather dearly but the standard version which contains the same juice has a much more palatable price tag at $115. It is not so much a value proposition but a reasonably priced whisky in my opinion especially when you factor in the fact that everything is more costly these days as compared to a couple of years ago this is a sherry cask driven creation, which probably makes it a bang for the buck when you consider how much the Yamazaki sherry is going for at auctions… but this is an entirely different subject.

☆ [Recommended]

Nicholas

Disclaimer: With a value pick, it’s all relative, some purists would dismiss a NAS whisky completely and/or look down upon whiskies from certain distilleries. At WhiskNick, we simply don’t really care as long as we enjoy the dram. 🙂

Dram Review: Hibiki 21 Years Old

[43.0%・21 Years Old・Bottled Circa. 2013-2015・Hibiki Bottling・Limited Release]

Nose:

A full but tender sandalwood and incense nose. Coconut and vanilla making a wonderful entry with an underlying plum sweetness. Grain spices appearing, the smoke is delicate with a lingering soft cocoa note. The fragrant note with a hint of pepper come through after some time. Fresh wood chips with faint notes of mint and thyme, a subtle raisin note.

Palate & Finish:

On the palate, plum sweetness with notes of ripe strawberries and a lime zing. A pinch of ground pepper excites the tastebuds. The sticky raisins then surface such that the sweetness makes a comeback. There is a coconut creaminess on the backend.

The grain spices disperse in the finish with traces of light cocoa notes upon an underlying oakiness. A faint hint of orange zing and Japanese ginger note. The soft fructose element lasts rather long, that slight floral vibe is comforting. It’s complex but not overpowering. A flavourful yet tender whisky.

Thoughts:

She’s a shy beauty with plenty on the mind, leaving a lot for one to explore.

☆ [Recommended]

Nicholas

Dram Review: Hibiki 30 Years Old Bottle No. 39894

[43.0・30 Years Old・Hibiki Bottling・Limited Release]

 

Nose:

Syrup glazed walnuts and poached peach on the nose, the smoke is ancient and regal. Also present are soft black pepper and tender plum like fragrance.
 Let it breathe and the rich toffee comes out along with delicate wood and some corn oil with just a couple drops of balsamic vinegar. 
Rest for a while longer and the nose changes yet again, this time with a pinch of salt and dried rose petals.

Palate & Finish:

Light umeshu on the palate with subtle acidity and delicate spices.
Thicker sweeter raisins then appear along with caramel and toffee on the back palate. A hint of tropical pineapple notes there as well.

Sichimi and Japanese pickled ginger in the finish with mizunara wood and syrupy plums coming through. Lengthy floral notes.

Thoughts:

Sheer poetry.

A.K.A. “Mr. Fukuyo’s Masterpiece”

I was lucky enough to have the last nip of the bottle.

☆☆ [Highly Recommended]

-Nicholas