Review: Hibiki 12 Year Old Japanese Blended Whisky / by Jason Hambrey

12 Years; Finished in Plum Wine Casks
Malt and Grain Whiskies
Distiller Yamazaki, Hakushu & Chita (Japan)

In Scotch blended whisky, single malt and grain whiskies are sourced from a number of different distilleries in order to create the blends. As in Scotland, blends are bigger sellers than single malts in Japan.  In Japan, however, whisky producers do not collaborate with one another, resulting in the need for Japanese whisky producers to produce a large variety of different styles of whisky on their own. They do this using different stills, yeast strains, and casks. Hibiki includes whisky from Yamazaki, Hakashu, and small bit from Chita. Different, perhaps, to single malts we are usually accustomed to – this is partially matured in plum wine casks, and the whiskies are filtered through bamboo charcoal. Hibiki is produced by Suntory, one of the world’s largest drinks companies who own all of the aforementioned Japanese distilleries (they also own Jim Beam, Alberta Distillery, Canadian Club, among others).

Review (2015)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: ~2014

Nose: The first thing I noticed were light bourbon overtones. Lots of fruit notes, with apple, raspberry, and lots of plum which grows with time as the whisky sits. The grain is rich and plump, and there are some mossy earthy notes as well, with some interesting wood notes that I can’t quite pin down (I was going to say bamboo but I resist since that might just be my imagination because of the association with Japan). Very nicely balanced.

Taste: Very nice mouthfeel, and a big kick of plum at first before a good dose of barley and some underlying peat smokiness which I didn’t even detect on the nose. Vanilla enters in on the end. There is some sturdy oak and cognac in the background, giving a nice backdrop. A very light bitterness is in the mix which knocks things down a tad.

Finish: Lightly smoky, with some green apple skins and barley, and some sherry-like rancio notes. Nicely balanced, but could be a bit longer and not quite as soft. There’s wood in the mix as well, but it’s not too big.

Very interesting, covering a large range of flavours without being too overwhelming. Very well put together, and I really enjoy the breadth, integration, and simplicity of this whisky.

Highly Recommended (48% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Average. Really not too bad for ~$100 CAD, and certainly not in terms of Japanese whisky.