Taste score: 88
Category: Japanese Whisky, NAS, Blended Malt
Whisky Cabinet Score: ★ ★ ☆ ☆
Hibiki Harmony came into markets replacing the 12 Year Old variety. As a no-age statement whisky, it could be made available to a broader audience, but it also lives in turmoil with endless comparisons to the whisky it replaced. Removing age statements gives producers flexibility making whisky (why should 12 years be the minimum age in the bottle?), but it also creates a sense of distrust with the consumer accustomed to seeing a number on the bottle.
Harmony is softer, gentler, and offers a quieter complexity compared to the discontinued 12 year old. There are whiskies that are had best in a loud crowd, and whiskies you'll enjoy most with a small group of friends. Harmony is a singular experience. It's the whisky that has a lot to say, but speaks quietly. Sure, it's not Hibiki 12, but it's quite possible that it has more to offer (sadly, I never had the chance to score Hibiki 12).
What's in the whisky?
Hibiki is the high-end blended brand from Beam Suntory. Hibiki 17 and 21 year old are beautiful whiskies, and the 21 is amongst the best whiskies I've tasted. All Hibiki releases are a blend of malted barley and grain whisky, with various types of oak used. This is a combination of malt from Yamazaki, Hakashu, and Chita whisky (mostly corn whisky). As for barrels used, there's American oak, some sherry oak, and Japanese Mizunara oak.
While blended whisky gets a bad reputation, and Hibiki makes an effort not to market itself as such, this is an example of why blended whiskies should not be ignored.
Nose: Notes of a vanilla-citrus terrine. Wonderful caramel sweetness mixed with bright orange zest, combined with heavier toasted spice notes. An authentic oaky spice takes over the nose after a time, and that gives you something a little different. It's buttery, has a touch of char, nice vanilla, a bit of candied ginger added to the mix. A combination of vanilla citrus finishes off the nose over time.
Palate: A beautiful spread of oak tannins, vanilla sweetness, sharp pepper spice, and a buttery finish. Honey, cinnamon, and nutmeg come through nicely. It's sharper on the palate than on the nose. The finish is gentle, and heavier on a mixture of buttery-sweet and cinnamon spice.
Conclusion: The nose does wonders, and the palate is a little more ordinary, but overall the best Hibiki you'll be able to buy on the market. It's priced well in a market where the supply and demand chart for Japanese whisky is out-of-this-world.
*Whisky Cabinet Rating Explained:
☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ Not recommended
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ Good whisky, but not a ‘must-have’
★ ★ ☆ ☆ Your great regular rotation whisky that'll come and go
★ ★ ★ ☆ Excellent, a near must-have
★ ★ ★ ★ Extraordinary, memorable, and original