The House of Suntory, the founders of the Japanese whisky industry, are celebrating their centenary this year. Several events and bottlings have marked the occasion but arguably none are more special than this new release - the Hibiki 21 years old 100th Anniversary Edition. The rare blend has been created using whiskies from each of Suntory's distilleries - Chita, Hakushu and Yamazaki. A pocket of the Yamazaki spirit that was used has been matured in Mizunara oak casks.
The new whisky has been created by Shingo Torii and Shinji Fukuyo, Master Blender and Chief Blender respectively at the House of Suntory. The Hibiki blend (pronounced he-bee-kee and meaning 'echo' in Japanese) was first introduced in 1989 and created by then-Master Blender Keizo Saji. The brand has grown to be the most highly awarded Japanese blended whisky in spirits competitions around the globe.
The Hibiki 21 years old 100th Anniversary Edition is presented in the classic 24-sided bottle with a label featuring gold leaf. It is housed in a wooden casket and released at 43% ABV. The whisky will be available in selected whisky specialists and luxury retailers worldwide. A bottle will cost £5,200.
Our Tasting Notes
The colour is vibrant gold and the nose is highly floral and aromatic. Fragrant aromas of white peach, green grape and manuka honey mingle with vanilla extract, white chocolate and cocoa powder. The sweet fruitiness is underpinned by a delicate and warming spiciness - think of cinnamon bark, white pepper and clove.
On the palate this whisky is elegance personified. The warming and woody spice from the nose comes through well to begin with - imagine a heady combination of clove, star anise, cedar and sandal wood. These notes give a savoury, almost umami, edge throughout. Then the sumptuous fruity elements begin to shine with ripe, juicy peach and apricot to the fore, plus a hint of fresh pineapple juice.
The sumptuous nature continues with a distinctive note of golden syrup, which is accentuated by a hint of butterscotch and pinches of cocoa powder and white pepper. There is also a delicate floral note that sits in the background that is most reminiscent of citrus blossom and jasmine. A faint hint of the cinnamon bark and honey from the nose round things off nicely and adds even more complexity.
The finish is long and goes through three distinct phases. First the ripe fruity elements begin to fade, then the sweeter ones. This leaves the elegant warming spices to take hold and take the finish is a pleasantly dry and woody direction.
What's The Verdict?
This Hibiki 21 years old 100th Anniversary Edition is an exquisite whisky and one that does justice to one of House of Suntory's most popular brands. The blend has incredible depth and complexity and combines sweet, fruity and spicy elements superbly. It really shows off what can be achieved with old Japanese whisky.
The only negative is the price. Over £5000 for a bottle seems astronomical, even when factoring in the scarcity of highly aged Japanese whisky these days. Sadly this will mean that all of these bottles are destined for the collector's shelf or a rich businessman's trophy cabinet. Will anyone actually get to taste it? We hope so as it is a sublime whisky.