Editor’s Note: This whisky was provided to us as a review sample by Beam Suntory. This in no way, per our editorial policies, influenced the final outcome of this review.
If Hibiki Japanese Whisky sounds familiar, it may be from its 17 year expression featured in the 2003 movie Lost In Translation. It may also be from the incredibly approachable 12 year expression that went for as little as $55 back when it was still available. Unfortunately both the 12 and 17 year Hibikis are no longer produced, discontinued as demand continues to outpace production.
To make up for these losses, Suntory has released its Hibiki Harmony, an affordable and approachable blend using the same key malt and grain whiskies from the original Hibiki 17 and 21 year expressions.
To be specific, Hibiki Japanese Harmony is made with malt whiskies from the Yamazaki and Hakushu distilleries, as well as grain whisky from the Chita distillery. This is a total of ten malt and grain whiskies that are aged in 5 different types of oak, including the incredibly rare Japanese Mizunara oak – of which a single barrel can go for $6,000 or more.
The result is best described by that hipster director trying to get Bill Murray to understand nuance through a demure interpreter.
“What you are talking about is not just whiskey, you know. Do you understand? It’s like you are meeting old friends. Softly, tenderly. Gently. Let your feelings boil up. Tension is important! Don’t forget.”
Vital Stats: Japanese blended whisky of undisclosed mash bill of 10 different malt and grain whiskies aged in 5 different types of oak for an undisclosed amount of time and bottled at 43% ABV in 750mL bottles for around $75 USD
Appearance: This whisky has great clarity, and a golden tone that just glows asking to be sipped. It deepens into rich light browns where the liquor is thicker. In 2018 Hibiki Harmony released a special bottle design, inspired by traditional kimono patterns and adorned with a tabane-noshi.
Nose: Rich wooden flooring, the kind that gives you a sense of presence in a really old building. Some soft honey aromas creep out from under the heavier blanket of oak and are carried through with a pleasant hint of varnish.
Palate: Initial is bright and lively, lifting you up and bringing you to attention, forcing you to focus and really appreciate all the flavors being presented to you. The mid palate gently carries you into a wonderfully soft finish where the heat builds slowly and pleasantly. Both the flavor and texture come to an end with a soft ebb and flow until you hardly notice it anymore.
While I was hoping for a deeper complexity in this whiskey it is hard to fault its wonderful flavor and balance. Not many producers can create such a light and energetic whiskey without sacrificing its finish. The Hibiki Harmony does a fantastic job of showcasing skilled blending to bring you a youthful beauty with an old soul.
Nathan is a Certified Spirits Specialist, Sommelier, USBG Spirits Professional, and has taught as an Adjunct Professor on Distilled Spirits and Mixology. Throughout his tenure bartending he has also served as the President of the Oregon chapter of the United States Bartenders Guild and has won several national level cocktail...