Hibiki Japanese Harmony Tasting Notes Review

hibiki-japanese-harmonyIt shocked the world when Jim Murray, author of The Whisky Bible, named The Yamazaki Single Malt Sherry Cask 2013 as the best whisky in the world. It was the first time, in the 12 year run of The Whisky Bible, that the first place spot didn’t go to a whisky from Scotland. In fact, Murray didn’t put any Scotches in the top five!

Yamazaki is a product of Suntory, which also makes The Hakushu and The Hibiki. Yamazaki and Hakushu are both single malts, Hibiki is their blend and means harmony in Japanese (fitting for a blend). Today, I had the pleasure of sampling Hibiki’s latest no-age statement whisky – Hibiki Japanese Harmony.

In Japanese culture, there’s a reverence of craftsmanship. If you have Netflix, watch Jiro Dreams of Sushi, it’s a documentary that chronicles the life of 85yo Jiro Ono, considered one of the world’s greatest sushi chefs. He runs a 10-seat, sushi-only restaurant located in a Tokyo subway station and was awarded a 3-star Michelin Guide rating. That’s astounding, until you watch the painstaking detail and world class craftsmanship involved.

I bring that up because harmony with nature is another highly regarded belief, one that’s harder to demonstrate (certainly in a documentary), but that harmony is what Suntory Chief Blender Shinji Fukuyo was aiming for in the Hibiki Japanese Harmony blend. The best way to give you an idea of what they were trying to achieve actually comes from their manufacturing notes:

Hibiki Japanese Harmony is heralded as the foundation of the Hibiki range, leveraging the same key malt and grain whiskies from the original Hibiki blend, Hibiki 17 Years and Hibiki 21 Years. American White Oak malt whiskies create a solid base. The rare Mizunara (Japanese oak) and sherry cask malt whiskies are the dressing. The smoky malt whiskies enact as subtle accents to create depth and further complexity. Grain whiskies from Suntory’s Chita distillery act as the “dashi,”or broth, to complete the personality of the malt whiskies and enhance their overall harmony.

There’s a lot going on in the blend and the fun part is that they tell you.

Tasting Notes:

  • Nose: Floral sweetness, emphasis on the floral, some pine and sandalwood
  • Palate: Caramelized honey akin to sherry (it’s one of the sweetest I can remember), candied orange, cinnamon (think about the baking area of your spice drawer… that whole smell of cinnamon, nutmeg, etc), rosemary, a little smokiness that surprised me
  • Finish: Medium finish and clean, some dark chocolate sweet bitterness, lingering honey

Overall, it’s a light whisky with a lot of fun flavors, heavier emphasis on the floral which is fun because you see that’s what they were going for with Harmony. The aspect I wish I could recognize is the characteristics imparted by the Mizunara (Japanese oak) casks. It’s like knowing there’s a new type of stringed instrument in the orchestra but not being able to hear it because I don’t know what to look for.

I’ve had some of Suntory’s other creations and I see this one as a good way to get into Japanese whisky if you’ve never had any. It’s bottled at 43% abv and retails for $68 locally – if I can find one, I’m getting one.

15 thoughts on “Hibiki Japanese Harmony Tasting Notes Review

  1. Ooh, that sounds good. I have a very hard time finding Japanese whisky locally, so my options are limited to mail-order, or having a local store special-order for me — both very costly. Also risky, if ordering something sight unseen, or rather taste untasted.

    I did try one Japanese whisky, but found it smokier than has been my taste lately, almost as smoky as Laphroiag. I can’t remember which one it was for the life of me (I do remember it was a green bottle). Don’t get me wrong, it was a very good whisky (and priced as such), I’ve just been more into Highlands and Speysides of late, Islays not so much.

    Hmm, just checked and Total Wine says they have “limited inventory” and to check with the store. Think I’ll swing by tomorrow and see if there’s a Hibiki experiment in my near future. Thanks for the note!

  2. “Oh HELL yes!” Is what I usually exclaim when I find a local whiskey bar with this water of life. Can’t lay my hands on it locally, but wish I could.

      • This is what I heard from their communications people – “Hibiki Japanese Harmony has just been launched globally and is a permanent addition to the Hibiki portfolio, not a limited edition. Suntory is using 5 different types of cask, 3 different woods. There is no availability issues of the wood used by Suntory.”

        • Harmony is intended to replace the soon to be phased out Hibiki 12yrs (not available in Canada). Harmony will be the new entry level whisky, but the price is not what I would call entry level.

          Look out for Hibiki 17yrs or 21yrs. I count the 17 in my top five of all time, but rarely available outside of Japan.

  3. After purchasing a bottle for $20 less than the normal price at Costco, I found my bottle was gone within a couple of days, ( I was raving about it to my friends as well), when I went back, there were no more bottles and none at any of the liquor stores in my area… I NEED MORE OF THIS WHISKEY, NOW!!!!

  4. Got a bottle at Spec’s here in Austin a few weeks ago. $59, about $15 less than expected. Have loved it since I was poured a sample at one of my favorite stops in Tucson. I keep it in a separate cabinet to make myself forget that I’ve got it since I was told they do not often carry it. That tactic works! Every week or two I just pour maybe 2-3 oz. and savor it neat. This is the way to go with this whiskey, in my opinion.

  5. excellent review. my son shared it with me last week, purchasing when working out of the country. I found it yesterday at Party Source in Newport, KY for $70 … and yes, I purchased it! looking forward to sharing this wonderful blend.

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