Have you heard that Japan is the leading country when it comes to producing the best whiskies in the world? You can find the answer to this question in our two previous posts, where you can also learn about the history of the Suntory distillery. We had a chance to taste HIBIKI Japanese Harmony Master’s Select and we must say that we were stunned. Our love of Japanese whiskies got more intense with this tasting, it was a surprise at every sip.
Perfection in details
The HIBIKI bottle’s label is made of handmade Echizen paper and bears the word HIBIKI in Japanese, written in calligraphy. It’s a 24-sided bottle, which represents the 24 hours in a day, the 24 seasonal divides in a year and the number of months during which HIBIKI is matured. Coupled with a deep purple band wraps around the neck of the bottle, the color which is considered noble in Japanese culture. The packaging of Japanese whiskies is mostly clean and driven by perfection. The bottles and the design themselves urge you to respect the product before you even start pouring it. And there is another thing which will make you respect it: the price.
Price of HIBIKI
HIBIKI has few pricey products in its collection, but prices of this spirit increased not just because of the world demand for Japanese whiskies, but also because of Hollywood. In 2003, the movie Lost in Translation featured Bill Murray playing an aging actor who is in Tokyo to tape a commercial for a leading brand of Japanese whisky, Suntory.
In one scene, he is making a commercial for HIBIKI and the scene is funny because of the bad translation. The translator didn’t give Bob the right instructions and the director wasn’t so happy with the result. The film in itself was a huge success nevertheless and HIBIKI was out of stock in a matter of days. There is also another Murray who is responsible for the high prices of Japanese whiskies: Jim Murray.
Hollywood and Hibiki
He is a widely followed British critic who, in 2014, crowned the Suntory’s 2013 Yamazaki Sherry Cask, a single-malt whisky, “Whisky of the Year”. Today in the United States, the demand for this whisky is crazy: according to the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States, in 2011, less than 50,000 liters of Japanese whisky were imported to the USA – in 2016, this number jumped to more than 1.1 million liters! With demand also the prie went sky high. In 2015 you would pay 4,000 JPY ($35) for a HIBIKI 17 0,70l. Today is the average price of the same whisky, 41,000 JPY ($360). The record in Japan stores was on 21. of May this year. For one bottle was an average price almost 72,500 JPY ($642)! Here you can check the price chart.
The HIBIKI whisky was born in 1987 when Master Blender Keizo Saji decided to develop a blended whisky that reflected the sophistication of Suntory’s techniques. The Chief Blender in that time, Koichi Inatomi, sampled and tasted aged malt whiskies from one million casks at Suntory. The final flavor was blended by thirty distinctive malt and mellow grain whiskies. The HIBIKI Japanese Harmony Master’s Select was released in late 2015 for the global travel retail market. It carries no age statement and is bottled at 43% ABV. We found a statement saying this is a blend of ten different malt and grain whiskies that have aged in 5 different casks at the Yamazaki, Hakushu and Chita distilleries.
My tasting notes
Aromas are pretty sweet: we perceived some vanilla, plums with intense florals and orange zest at the back. This sweetness is well combined with the woody aromas cinnamon and musk, which is quite delicate and tempting. The flavor has a lot of body and it is not what you’d expect. One can taste oak, some orange bitterness and spiciness of black pepper. Sure, there is a lot of sweetness, but it is top notch, especially considering this blend is for High Ball. The earthy flavor is well mixed with a smoky one, but not too much, just slightly smoky, you will not lose your floral and fruity taste. The finish is not long, more likely medium with some woody Sherry cask and a nice sweetness at the back.
Personally, we like this one a lot. We haven’t tried the 17-year-old yet, but we think this is a good introduction to this style, a nice balance with a lot of fruits and wood rounded with vanilla. We can imagine drinking this on a big block of hand-carved ice. Well done Suntory!
Hibiki Origami Edition
Hibiki Origami Edition is my Sunday project. I love limited editions of all liqueurs and Hibiki is no exception. There are on the market some amazingly nice bottles of limited editions and I can only hope to get one in a near future. However, Hibiki Origami Limited Edition is my fiction edition and to be honest, it would be amazing. I can imagine an animation with origami cranes and nice box in the same style with a real Hibiki Origami inside. For this reason, the paper would be recycled and colored with watercolors in distressed technique.
Why Origami? Because it’s also a Japan art, where you need a lot of patience, skills, and imagination. Just like Hibiki, where they are using all these attributes to make a true harmony in a bottle. Let me know what do you think about this “Hibiki Origami Edition” and comment at our Facebook post. Kenpai!
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