Archive for the ‘Japanese Spirits’ Category

Japanese Whisky Review: Suntory Hibiki 12 Year

January 17, 2011 1 comment

Suntory Hibiki 12 Year:
Distiller: Suntory
Spirit: Blended Whisky
Price: $59.99
Abv: 43%

Plum, honey, caramel, pineapple, custard, cinammon and spice, tangerine, berries

Tangerine, oak, caramel, sweet and mellow, with a slight sourness, and of this is incredibly well balanced.

Hibiki 12 has a spicy and fruity, long finish. When take your first sip, it makes your mouth water, but then finishes dry like a highland park. This has one of the smoothest finishes I’ve ever experienced.

I haven’t, and probably will not, use this whisky in a cocktail. There is not one characteristic that jumps out at me ahead of the others, and I find that cocktails usually need that in a liquor. However, this might do well in a mild cocktail requiring a softer scotch/blended whisky, but please know that its delicate spice would be killed off by any other ingredients in a cocktail. Personally, this whisky is meant to be enjoyed one way, and one way only: neat.

This bottle might take the cake for my all time favorite bottle. First of all, the glass is absolutely beautiful; it is shorter and thicker than most whisky bottles I’ve seen, and its geometric edges really make this bottle stand out on the bar. The cork is topped by a glass knob with a frosted glass emblem in the center with the Japanese symbols for what I believe is the word “Hibiki.” The short neck is wrapped in a simple, yet elegant amber and gold label which does not distract one from the bottle’s main label. The creamy label exudes elegance and creates an expectation of excellence. There is not a single word or image on its label that is out of place. The lettering, while reminiscent of some bourbon or scotch letterings, remains distinctively genuine to the Suntory distillery in Japan. The attention to its intricate details really sets this bottle apart from all others in my possession; even if I didn’t like the whisky (which I most certainly do), I would put this out in front for the mere sake of it looking so damned pretty.

I think I’m turning Japanese. One review I read said that this is not a whisky to dissect, but simply to enjoy; I could not agree more. While there is plenty of complexity to go around, Suntory Hibiki 12 is so incredibly well balanced, and offers such a pleasant aroma, taste and finish, that I found myself wanting to end this review as quickly as possible so that I could sit back and enjoy it without worrying about the intricacies. Yes, you can talk about the complexity and balance of the spice and fruit, and how the sweet oak prevents it from burning the back of your throat on the way down. However, I think you are doing this whisky and yourself an injustice if you try to analyze it too much. It’s a bit like classical music; when I first started listening to it, all I could think about was the complexity of the rhythms, the orchestral planning, etc. and I hardly took any time to actually enjoy the beauty coming through the speakers. However, now whenever I play a favorite piece by Chopin or Camille Saint-Saëns, I simply sit back and fall in love with music all over again. Likewise, this whisky has reminded me why I fell in love with whisky in the first place: because a good whisky makes you feel so incredibly fantastic! When I simply want to smile and enjoy one of life’s small pleasures, I will reach for this bottle again and again.

Reviewed by Richard Borean