I am not an authority. What little I have tried has impressed me. In North America, Yamazaki 12 and 18 years are the most common. The 12 is good. The 18yrs is excellent. These whiskies are proof that great single malts can be produced outside of Scotland.
Recently, I had the opportunity to try Hibiki 17 years old. My uncle was given a bottle by his daughter-in-law. She is Japanese and while in her native land picked up a bottle of Hibiki 17 years old as a gift for my uncle. I got to try it!
Hibiki 17 years is not a single malt. Don't turn your nose up. That would be a serious mistake. Have an open mind and you will be rewarded.
This spirit is a blend of malt and grain whiskies having a minimum age of 17 years. What is astounding about this whisky is that there is no graininess or rounded flavors that seem to 'blur' the flavors as is typical of high end Scotch whisky blends like Ballantine's 17 years, Chivas Regal 18 years, Johnnie Walker Gold and Blue Labels.
Hibiki 17 can be proud of an extraordinary feat. It tastes like a single malt scotch whisky, and a very, very fine one at that.
Cocoa and hazelnut. It was quite restrained. Not incredible but not offensive. Just kinda there. Very pleasant.
Rich, textured beams of cinammon, oak and honey lash the palate with lemon zest as you hold the whisky for a few seconds. Medium to full bodied. Never sharp. Inifinitely smooth, yet playful and challenging. A whisky that makes one unpoetically (is that a word?) wax on like a star-crossed lover.
Wow! Super long! You need such a little sip of this whisky to enjoy a subtle spiced oak/honey/cinammon combo wrapped in hazelnut with a little citrus on top. A flavor profile that will hold for a good 60 seconds after you swallow. Wow! I know, I know, I am getting repetitive, but this is really impressive.
I am breaking one of my cardinal rules of this blog. Namely: Thou shalt not review a whisky unless thou has tasted the whisky on multiple occasions. In other words, own my own bottle, sample repeatedly, and then compose tasting notes. I have broken that rule because this is a whisky that breaks all the rules! (1) It's a blended whisky but tastes like the finest single malt; (2) It's Japanese but could easily pass for 18+ years single malt Scotch. (3) It's terribly expensive but a tiny sip is so rich that in my warped mind I think it is worth the price!
I have tried many single malts and grain whiskies and this is simply one of the best. I rank it in my top five of all time. Fantastic stuff!
Rarely do I pay attention to the shape of a bottle, but the fine glass, Hibiki 17 24 sided bottle design is impressive. The 24 sides allude to the number of hours in a day as well as the number of seasons in the traditional Japanese lunar calendar. The heavy glass cap is elegant like the whisky underneath.
The trouble with Hibiki 17 is locating it, if you live in North America. It is currently not being distributed in the United States or Canada. I have a lot of readers in Hong Kong, Singapore, as well as Japan. I suspect they can obtain it more easily. For the rest of us, we gotta pray it turns up at duty free in the airport.
However, while the Hibiki 17 is not available in North America, the 12 year old is available and it is excellent. If you see it, buy it!
I would buy this for myself and only share with people who appreciate great whisky. If you can find it, buy it!
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