Hibiki 12 - A Japanese Whisky Blending Masterclass

When it comes to Japanese whisky, the Suntory organisation is the undoubted leader. Moreover, its Hibiki 12 achieved 'best in class' at the World Whisky Awards 2010.

Now a discontinued release, as a result of its unparalleled quality and increasing scarcity, the value has sky rocketed over the past 2-3 years with this month's Dream Whiskies prize, the 500ml Hibiki 12, now retailing (if you can find it) at a minimum of £350!

A blend of malt whiskies from the Suntory Yamazaki (sherry casks) and Hakushu (bourbon casks) distilleries are blended with grain whisky from their Chita distillery. As the age statement suggests, the minimum age of each whisky is 12 years (often much older) and finished in plum wine (Umeshu) American oak barrels for the addition of a final unique characteristic.

For the tasting notes, we refer to our favourite review, dating back to 2009. This is what 'Tim F' from the Whisky Exchange had to say:

Colour:  Aurulent (Gold-Coloured) or Melichrous (Honey-like).  Maybe Luteous (Golden-yellow).

Nose:  Very fruity, with ripe oranges, apple pie, marmalade and plums (would I have still got those plums if I didn’t know about the plum liqueur maturation?  I’d like to hope so).  Fresh honeysuckle and nougat aromas, sugared almonds, sponge cake, icing sugar. Expressive and exciting.

Palate:  Smooth as a snooker ball, with delicious fresh grain, oak tannins and delicately sherried malt.  Some clove, pepper and mixed peel as the sherry comes forward.  The citrus is here as well, if slightly more tart like lemon or grapefruit.

Finish:  Spices, apple peel and the last remnants of the finely-tuned grain.  Nothing dominates, everything in place – the integration and balance are quite remarkable.  The spices seem to build in intensity at the finale.

Comments:  Slips down easier than a greased eel in an oil slick.  This is tremendous.  A hugely impressive feat of blending that proves, if there were any remaining doubt, that Japanese whisky can equal or beat anything produced in Scotland at this moment in time.  Bravo.

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