Showing posts with label Suntory. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Suntory. Show all posts

Hibiki 12 Years Review

“A Nose You Won’t Forget”

Country: Japan
Brand: Suntory Hibiki
Type: Blended Japanese Whisky
Age:  12 Years
Alcohol: 43%

Colour: Golden Amber

Nose: Soft and Attractive with Malty, Fruity and Floral tones. No aggressive notes whatsoever. Immediately you smell something that you won't find in Scottish whiskies. I'm sure the Ex-Plum Liqueur barrels made of Japanese Oak are responsible for that. On the Nose the Hibiki 12 bears more resemblance with
a good Bourbon than with Scotch Whisky. I find Dried Plums and Apricots, Rum soaked Raisins, Orange Marmalade, Apple Pie, Chocolate Milk, Butterscotch, Cherries, Banana, Vanilla, Resin, Oak, Fresh Coconut Milk, Sweet Barley, Soft Grains, Nuts, Papaya Cream, Melon, Cinnamon, Ginger and a little Nutmeg. On the Nose, the Hibiki 12 Years is more accessible than its older brother, the 17 Years. You can smell the 12 Years for an hour and it won't be boring. Every time you discover new Aromas. The Alcohol is nicely integrated. I really like it!

Taste: Lots of Citrus with Orange and Lemon Peel, light Sherry, Oak, Malt, Soft Grains, Roasted Nuts, Honey, Plums, Cherries, Banana, Pineapple, Vanilla, Dried Fruits, Clove, Ginger and Nutmeg. On The Palate, the Grain Alcohol is much more noticeable. 

Finish: Middle-Long and quite Dry but with a nice combination of Sweet, Bitter and Sour. I find Sweet Barley, Vanilla, Citrus, Cherries, Plums, Red Apples, Oak, Banana, Cocoa Butter, light Varnish, light Pepper, Ginger and Nutmeg.  

I added a little Water and the Grains become more noticeable on the Nose. Palate and Finish do not benefit from the added Water as well. Better sip it neat. 

Rating: 86  

Nose: 22.5 – Taste: 21 - Finish: 21 – Overall: 21.5

General Remarks: Normally I don’t pay too much attention to the packaging but it needs to be said that the bottle used for the Hibiki Blend is a very nice one. It's practically a decanter. 

Hibiki 12 Years contains some 30 different whiskies. At its heart you will find the Malt Whiskies from Yamazaki and Hakushu alongside the Grain Whisky from Chita. The whiskies used for Hibiki are matured in Ex-Bourbon and Ex-Sherry casks and partly in Japanese Oak barrels that used to contain Plum Liqueur. Before bottling, the Hibiki 12 is filtered through Bamboo Charcoal. The price varies a lot from country to country but on average you will pay around 75 US Dollars for this Blend (April 2015) 
Drinking Experience Neat: Good. Great Nose!

Conclusion: The Word Hibiki in Japanese has a lot of meanings. Amongst them are " Collection of Reflecting Sounds" and "Harmony". In the end, that’s what every serious blender would want to achieve. To create a collection of reflecting flavours that, once brought together, form a unique harmonious combination while maintaining or even enhancing the strengths of individual components. So let's see if the Hibiki 12 Years deserves its name. 

Let me start by saying that this Japanese Blend has Scottish, Bourbon and Local influences. The result is a spirit with a clear own personality that you probably will be able to identify when you smell and taste it again. I love the Nose of the Hibiki 12. It smells and feels almost like a Single Malt Whisky as the Grain notes are quite Soft and hardly noticeable. You can easily spend an hour nosing this Blend as New Aromas will keep popping up. Lovely stuff. Unfortunately the Palate and the Finish can't quite deliver what the Nose promises. The Grain Alcohol is more noticeable, although in no way as harsh as in many of the Scottish Blends. So while Palate and Finish are still Good, they miss the magic of the Nose. When compared to the more expensive 17 Years, I find the Hibiki 12 years much more accessible on the Nose while Palate and Finish are reasonably similar. In my opinion it does not pay off to spend the extra bucks on the 17 Years. I conclude that the Hibiki 12 Years certainly represents a "Collection of Reflecting Sounds", especially on the wonderful Nose. On the Palate and in the Finish, the Grain Alcohol is a bit too present to call it completely harmonious. Still, it comes very close and the Hibiki 12 Years is a Blend I fully recommend despite its high price. "Hotondo Hibiki", We're Almost There!

Jan van den Ende                                                                    April 30, 2015

Stills at the Hakushu Distillery

Hakushu 12 Years Review

“A Walk in the Forest on a Foggy Day”

Country: Japan
Brand: Hakushu 
Type: Single Malt Whisky
Age: 12 Years
ABV: 43 %
Happy Hour Retirement Jan
Colour: Light Gold

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Nose: Earthy, Floral, Malty and Mineral. The Alcohol is quite strong at first so you have to Nose your way around it carefully. In any case give it sufficient time in the glass. I find Sweet Barley, Fresh Cut Grass and Hay, Wax, Soap, Syrup, light Honey, Nougat, Plants, Nuts, Oak, Dried Fruits (Raisins), Orchard Fruit, Lemon, Margarine and light Pepper. The Nose is as Green as the Bottle. And underneath it all I find a light Medicinal Smoke. It's like taking a walk in a forest on a foggy day.

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Palate: Bitter-Sweet, Young and slightly Edgy with Pear, Green Apple, Grass, Herbal Tea, Wax, Toast, Margarine, Sweet Barley, Vanilla, Lemon Zest, Pepper, Ginger, Cardamom, Mint, light Honey, Floral tones, light Smoke, Oak, Grapes and Grappa.

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Finish: Medium long, Bitter-Sweet and Dry with Ice Tea Lemon, Wax, Syrup, Pepper, Cardamom, Ginger, Oak, Mint, light Smoke and light Honey.

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With added Water, the Nose gets more Lemon, Wax, Soap and Malt. On the Palate I find some Tropical Fruit like Pineapple and Kiwi. But the Finish becomes too Thin. Still, there's room to play with a couple of drops.

Rating: 82

Nose: 21 - Taste: 20.5 - Finish: 20 - Overall: 20.5

The Hakushu Distillery, a Giant Hidden in the Forest!

General Remarks: The Hakushu Distillery was founded in 1973 and is located in a forest on the slopes of Mount Kaikoma in the Toribara district of the city of Hokuto, around 120 km west of Tokyo. The area is also known as Japan's Southern Alps. In 1981 a large expansion took place, now called Hakushu East while the original site is now known as Hakushu West. The Distillery has 8 pairs of Stills at the moment and is owned by the Suntory Group. Most of the Spirit production goes into the Suntory Blends. Four Single Malts are part of the core range as well, namely the NAS Distiller's Reserve, the 12 Years, the 18 Years and the 25 Years. The Hakushu 12 Years is made with both lightly peated and unpeated Malt and matures in Ex-Bourbon Casks (mostly Hogsheads) and some Ex-Sherry Casks. The 12 Years sells at an average 75 US Dollars. I received a bottle of the 12 Years as a Goodbye Present from my closest colleagues during a Happy Hour offered to me on account of my retirement. As you can see I have added a few pictures of the event. It was a great evening! In fact it was great working with this fantastic group of people for so many years. Thanks from the bottom of my heart for the great time we had together. We'll be in touch!

Some of the Stills at Hakushu

Drinking Experience Neat: Good

Conclusion: The Hakushu 12 Years Smells and Tastes much younger than its actual age. The high location of the Distillery will likely be responsible for that as Whisky matures slower in high altitudes and low temperatures. Unlike its big brother, the Yamazaki, the Hakushu only slightly resembles Scottish Single Malt. It really has its own characteristics. It's Fresh, Light, Clean and very Floral. The Smoke is Ultra-Light but nevertheless forms an important part of the Flavour Profile. If you are a regular Scotch drinker I would advise you to try a sample first before deciding to buy a full bottle. Personally i found that the Hakushu 12 Years grew on me over the last few days. Once I got familiar with the Aromas and Flavours I found myself wanting to take another sip. The Hakusku 12 may not be the preferred Single Malt for everybody but it certainly stands out as remarkable in the Forest of Whiskies that's out there today. 

Jan van den Ende                                                          December 17, 2014

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