Monday, November 9, 2015

Review - Hibiki Japanese Harmony

The Japanese Harmony is the latest addition to the core range of the Hibiki.  The new whisky has been created by Shingo Torii and Shinji Fukuyo, Master Blender and Chief Blender respectively at brand owners Suntory.  They have used the same whiskies as in the original version of the Hibiki blend, which was first released in 1989. The pair have used single grain whisky from Suntory's Chita grain distillery plus malts from their Hakushu and Yamazaki distilleries.  These have been matured in a combination of American white oak, Mizunara oak and ex-sherry casks.

As mentioned, Hibiki (pronounced hee-bee-kee and meaning 'echo' in Japanese) was first introduced in the late 1980s and has grown to be the most highly awarded Japanese blended whisky with a multitude of prizes gathered from around the globe.  The range of products has expanded, particularly in recent years, and currently includes this Japanese Harmony plus expressions at 12, 17, 21 and 30 years of age.  There is also the travel retail exclusive Harmony Master's Select, which has just been introduced in selected airports worldwide.

Brand Ambassador Zoran Peric at the Harmony Bar launch.

Japanese Harmony was initially launched in Australia last year but has been available in other major markets, such as the UK, since mid-July of this year.  The launch saw the brand build a pop-up experience Harmony Bar in central London, which educated consumers about Japanese whisky and Hibiki in particular (pictured, above).  It is bottled at 43% ABV and has a recommended retail price of £54.

Our tasting notes 
The colour is golden yellow and the nose has an immediate freshness and sweetness to it.  There are are aromas of golden syrup, peach and plenty of wood spice (especially cinnamon and mace).  Underneath are further aromas of white chocolate, sultanas and honey plus hints of damp earth and white pepper.

On the palate, the freshness from the nose is evident.  There are sweet and spicy characteristics battling with each other - think of golden syrup and white chocolate paired with plenty of cinnamon, oak and all-spice.  As these soften a lovely juicy fruitiness begins to come through.  There are notes of peach, apricot, sultana and a hint of mango, which sit very nicely with the sweet and spicy elements.  With time some tangy lemon zest develops and there are background notes of ginger and soft tobacco-like smoke, which give the whisky some late earthiness and pleasant bitterness.

The finish is quite short and clean.  The sugary and syrupy sweetness fades to leave the distinct woody spices and some refreshing citrus to last longest.  The combination works well.

What's the verdict?
Japanese whisky has become incredibly popular in the last few years, especially since Jim Murray nominated one as his Whisky of the Year in his Whisky Bible 2015.  This addition to the multi award winning Hibiki range is nice and light with some lovely sweetness and woody spices.  The Japanese Harmony is the perfect introduction to Japanese whisky because of these elements and is worth searching out, either to taste first in a bar or for a full bottle in a shop.


Anonymous said...

Haven't tried this one, and not sure I will since Hibiki 12-year is readily available for around $20US more per bottle. I guess I'm skeptical since the NAS Miyagikyo and Yoichi released by Nikka to replace the no-longer-available aged expressions of those malts are so embarrassingly awful that I've become quite discouraged when it comes to NAS Japanese whiskies. Seems the only Japanese maker putting out excellent young malts is Chichibu, but given the rarity of their single malt expressions, they're almost not worth mentioning.

Leslie Lim said...

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