Blended Japanese Whisky

Review: Suntory Toki Japanese Whisky by Jason Hambrey

Suntory Toki 1.jpg
ABV
40%
Aging
N/A
Recipe
N/A
Distiller Hakushu, Yamazaki, and Chita (Japan)

This whisky has been designed exclusively for the North American Market, and comes at an entry level price. It really is entry level, but that is all it is trying to be. It is designed for versatility, based upon the various ways that whisky is consumed - neat, on the rocks, or in a highball.


Review (2016)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2016

Light fruit – pear, peaches, apples, light lemon and grapefruit, and a slightly spicy backdrop with some toffee, brown sugar, and light incense. The palate has a great feel, with some brilliant oak and grain whisky playing around in the background alongside some toffee, and light peach. It’s very easy, light, and relatively simple - i.e. not that interesting – but serves terrifically as a casual sipper and there aren’t any negative elements at all. I’m sure this is what they had in mind when they moved decided to produce this – and they have it accomplished!

Recommended (81% of whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Average, based on $60. But in terms of Japanese whisky, I think they did a pretty good job! I enjoy the stuff. You can do better in Japanese whisky, but it comes at a price…


Review: Hibiki Harmony Blended Japanese Whisky by Jason Hambrey

ABV
43%
Aging
Finished in Plum Wine Casks
Recipe
Malt and Grain Whiskies
Distiller Yamazaki, Hakushu & Chita (Japan)

One effect of all the Japanese whisky craze has been an increasing influx of no-age-statement whisky, as this Hibiki whisky has been introduced without one. I find, below, that it isn't inferior to the 12 Year Old.


Review (2016)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2016

On the nose, anise seed, with a general dry spicy feel and some pear. It takes some time to open up with some malt and vanilla coming through. The palate has creamy, buttery barley, with a light smoky end. There is also some rich barley, pear, and some very light earthy notes in the background and a reasonable amount of tannin as well. It’s sweet, with vanilla and a light edge of smoke on the finish. Rich barley is still in the mix, with a tinge of spice. Decent body, with a bit of a peaty vegetal character to it as well. A nice strength to this – the creaminess is nicely buffeted by the 48.2% bottling strength which brings in a strong bit of ancillary flavour.

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

Value: Average. Really not a bad buy for $100, especially for Japanese whisky.


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

ABV
43%
Aging
12 Years; Finished in Plum Wine Casks
Recipe
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.