Review: Hibiki Harmony

It’s that time of year again. The blossom trees are in bloom and the streets in my rural little town turn pink as the petals start to rain down. Next to the home I grew up in is a little lane that’s lined with about twenty blossom trees, and every year I’m astounded all over again by the pretty pink picture it paints when they’re in full bloom. As the cherry blossom – or Sakura – is the national flower of Japan, beholding its beautiful sight tends to put me in the mood for some Japanese whisky. And thus, I poured myself a glass of Hibiki Japanese Harmony today!

To prevent any confusion, I’d like to state that the Hibiki Harmony also comes in a “Blossom Harmony” edition. But despite the (perhaps misleading) picture I’m reviewing the standard Japanese Harmony today.

The Hibiki Japanese Harmony is a whisky blended with stock from the Yamazaki, Hakushu and Chita distilleries. Which means there’s both malt and grain whiskies in the blend. It’s also chill-filtered, contains added colouring, is bottled at 43% ABV and has no age statement. All that might make this whisky appear like a simple blend on paper. But this Hibiki Harmony expertly displays that not everything is always as it appears!

Tasting Notes: Hibiki Japanese Harmony

Stats:

ABV: 43% (86 proof)

Age: NAS

Distillery: Suntory Yamazaki Distillery

Owned by: Beam Suntory

Category: Blended Japanese Whisky

Chill-Filtered: Yes

Natural Colour: No

Setting:

Early this morning I visited my father in the local retirement home to play a few rounds of chess. As I was driving back home, I passed the lane of blossom trees and saw they were in full bloom. Instantly eager to have a glass of Hibiki Harmony I picked up the bottle at home, shot a few pictures and drove back for my review. Once home I went straight to my office, started up the pc, poured the whisky neat into my Glencairn, and started writing.

Nose:

On the nose I’m immediately picking up on some sweet wooden elements, that very much remind me of virgin oak. Caramel and vanilla intermingle beautifully, giving me a sense of crème brulee. There are some floral elements to this dram as well, with roses being most noticeable. There is plenty of complexity available here, but it’s stays as perfectly balanced as a tightrope acrobat. Water seems to push this dram further to its floral side, giving me a sense of walking in a field of wildflowers.

Palate:

On the palate it brings a lot more oomph than the nose might lead you to expect. There’s a thick and creamy mouthfeel to the dram that reminds me of white chocolate mousse. Notes of honey play around with cinnamon and tangerines, while a slightly bitter liquorice root note prevents the palate from being dominated by the sweeter flavours. Despite that last note I do find the palate a lot less balanced than the nose of this dram, which however doesn’t mean that I find it any less pleasant. Water makes the spiciness of the cinnamon much more pronounced and adds a little lemon zing to the dram as well. If anything, despite the already low ABV, it makes it even more complex.

Finish:

In the finish you do start to notice the low ABV of this dram a little bit, as the flavours fade away rather quickly. On the box it states that it has a tender long finish, but in my experience it’s perhaps a bit too tender to be noteworthy. There’s a bit of tannin and a lemon custard that lingers, yet both seem rather underwhelming to me. A few drops of water did lengthen the finish of this dram considerably, with the cinnamon carrying through till the very end this time around. Still, the finish is the weakest side of this dram.

Verdict:

If I had purely looked at the stats of this dram, I propably would have never brought home a bottle at the price it’s currently going for. In The Netherlands you’ll easily pay more than a 100 euro for this whisky, and while I do think it’s an undeniably delicious dram… I find it hard to justify that price. Somehow everything Japanese Whisky makers touch seems to turn into liquid gold though, and this blended whisky is no exception. It’s beautifully balanced, complex, and utterly delicious. Judging it solely based on taste, the price suddenly seems a lot less steep. Still not worth a 100 euro perhaps, but it’s definitely worth more than the stats alone would make it seem.

I would say that this whisky represents a good lesson to not judge a book by its cover. But then again, it comes in such a lovely looking bottle that it would be a weird statement to make. But I think you catch my drift. Even blended whiskies, that are chill filtered, coloured and bottled at a (relatively) low ABV, can be true things of beauty. I just wish it was a little less expensive. Because as of now (like most Japanese whisky nowadays) it’s sadly enough a special occasion dram only.

Rating:

87/100

Value:

D

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