Japanese whisky (or whiskey as it’s known in the States) is a recent trend that has been emerging in bars across the country. But, is it right for your establishment? Learn more about the history of the Japanese whisky movement and one of their marquee products as the BevSpot team samples Suntory’s Hibiki 12 Year.
Spirit: Hibiki 12 Year
Distiller: Suntory (Osaka, Japan)
Category: Japanese whisky, blended whisky
– Hibiki means “echo” in Japanese
– It’s aged in umeshu or plum wine/liquor casks
The movement of distilling whisky in Japan was born from the passion of two people: Shinjiro Torii—who founded Kotobukiya, which would eventually evolve into the present-day Suntory—and Masataka Taketsuru—who studied Scottish distilling techniques while at the University of Glasgow and would go on to found another award-winning Japanese distillery, Nikka.
Originally seen as an inferior version of Scotch whisky, it wasn’t until the early 2000’s that the popularity of Japanese whisky exploded worldwide and Japanese whiskies and distilleries started to consistently win international awards year after year.
The Hibiki series (Harmony, 12, 17, 21 and 30 Year) of Suntory’s Japanese blended whisky continues Suntory’s legacy of world renown and award-winning high-end whisky. The 12 Year has been recognized as the best in its category for multiple years, in the International Spirits Challenge as well as the San Francisco World Spirits Competition.
The blend is made up of Suntory’s Yamazaki and Hakushu malt whisky, as well as their Chita grain whiskey. It’s an incredibly balanced and smooth sip, especially for a blended whisky. The unique aging process helps to accentuate the delicate sweetness and fruit notes you get throughout the spirit. Recommended neat or perhaps with an ice ball for warm summer days. It can be great as a solo beverage or when paired with a dish featuring red meat like wagyu.
“Vanilla and cherry, almost medicinal. Very smooth.”
“Nice vanilla and woody flavor. Great fresh finish.”
“I am a novice whiskey drinker, but this one was sweet when it hits the tongue then burns a bit, leaving a very warm feeling in the throat. Can definitely see where the plum wine barrels come into play, though.”
“Toffee, green apple up front… gentle heat and light smoke on the finish. Overall pretty thin body, reminds me of Oban 14 with a bit more punch to it.”