Hibiki combats Japanese whisky shortage with Japanese Harmony


Following the footsteps of the Yamazaki and Hakushu Distillers Reserve editions, the Hibiki introduces its latest expression here, called Japanese Harmony.

The blend is a Non Age Statement whiskey (NAS), but given the supply issues it is to be expected. Hibiki had flirted briefly with NAS releases (Japan exclusive) in the form of Deep Harmony and Mellow Harmony back in 2013, but unlike its predecessors, the new Japanese Harmony is a permanent addition to its lineup.

At the moment, it is perhaps the easiest means of drinking a blended whiskey from the famed Suntory label. While Suntory has traditionally fared well in international competitions, its accolade as whiskey critic Jim Murray’s whiskey of the year precipitated a stratospheric rise in demand. The somewhat unfair sensationalisation of Scottish whisky no longer being the best in the world by the media, mainstream and social, captured the imagination of the public at large, and interest – as well as purchases – in Japanese whiskey, grew briskly.

The long and the short of it is that demand for Suntory’s whiskies are now at a record high, and buying a bottle – any bottle – is at least a chore, if not an expensive pain in the posterior. Prices are also at an all time high, and even Japan itself has been affected. If personal accounts from the whiskey community are anything to go by, empty shelves upon where Suntory’s signature whiskies used to reside are a common sight.

But back to the Hibiki Japanese Harmony; Suntory’s latest blend is composed of more than 10 malt and grain whiskies from Suntory’s Yamazaki, Hakushu and Chita (for the grain whiskies) distilleries, and developed by third-generation Master Blender Shingo Torii and fourth-generation Chief Blender Shinji Fukuyo.

According to Suntory, Fukuyo used the same key malt and grain whiskey components as the original blend made in 1989 – whiskies aged in American white oak form the base of the blend, and is accentuated by whiskies matured in ex-Sherry casks as well as rare whiskies aged in Mizunara barrels.

The name Harmony (Hibiki itself is Japanese for harmony) alludes to the seamless marriage of malt whiskies, which form the base, and grain whiskies, which they describe as dashi (broth) to complete and enhance its profile.

Official notes for Hibiki Japanese Harmony

Much like the Distillers Reserve, the new Harmony captures the essence of the beloved Hibiki line in a (more) readily available bottling and at a relatively lower price point, after the recent price hikes and supply shortages. Suntory recommends that the versatile Hibiki Japanese Harmony be enjoyed neat, blended with water, mixed as a cocktail, or served with a hand-carved iceball for the “ultimate Japanese whiskey experience.” 700ml, 43% ABV, S$135

colour Amber

Nose Floral, Japanese orange, mature woodiness, Sandalwood

palate Pure and honey-like sweetness, candied orange peel

finish Subtle and tender long finish, Mizunara

Thoughts Suntory isn’t claiming that this is better than its more mature Hibikis, and it isn’t; it exhibits the classic Hibiki flavour profile, but without some of the depth. As such, it’s enjoyable enough to be sipped on its own, but I’d say that the hot season will be way more bearable when you have this and a couple of ice balls in your freezer…

Highball

 

Hibiki Japanese Harmony is available at The Beam Cellar (229 Mountbatten Road, #01-03 to 07 / #01-17 to 19, Mountbatten Square, S398 007). It is also carried at leading five star hotels, premium Japanese restaurants, international bars, clubs and lounges.