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Friday 15 May 2009

Some Splendid Suntory Specials...

Phew! what a busy week in the spirits world!

The start of the week saw some of the cream of the worlds tipples packed into the vast halls of Londons ExCel centre. Then Thursday, it was the flavours of the Orient that got Caskstrength's tastebuds in a twist with the release of Suntory's newest blended masterpiece- Hibiki 12 years old.

At a suitably oriental venue (the Nobu restaurant in the London Metropolitan Hotel) we were lucky enough to meet some of the men behind the sensational dynasty of Hibiki blends and got to taste some seriously interesting cask samples, which perfectly demonstrated how Japan continues to innovate and produce some of the world's finest whisky.

Our tasting mat contained cask samples from an array of differing styles of Suntory whisky- from an intensely sherried Yamazaki 14 year old (which I would dearly love to get a bottle of!!) A Hakushu distilled in 1994 and matured in a white oak Puncheon followed, which had a superb creaminess, mixed with fragrant lavender, and then- 'Malt X'- which turned out to be a another 14 year old Yamazaki, matured intensely for 2 years in a cask containing plum liqueur- one of the many whiskies which make up the Hibiki 12 year old.

General Manager and Senior Blender Shinji Fukuyo and his team have expertly married together grain and malt whiskies of up to 30 years old and then matured for a time in 'Umeshu ' - Japanese plum liqueur casks. But their innovation doesn't end there, for as Seiichi Koshimizu, Suntory's chief blender points out; 'our goal was to create a uniquely Japanese whisky that is mellower and smoother than any other premium 12 year old whisky in the world'
The secret to Hibiki 12's purity is filtration through bamboo charcoal- which is very much evident from the first sip. This is actually the 2nd time we've tried Hibiki 12 (firstly in our recent round up of Whisky Live) but there was no stopping us diving back in for a second taste!

Hibiki 12 year old blended whisky - 43% vol - 70cl

Nose: Hugely fruity and, dare I say it- plummy (no surprise there) with slight wafts of fragrant licorice, rice wine, honeysuckle and when you dig deeper, some wonderful buttery/creamy notes. Given a bit of time in the glass, an array of other sweet notes come through, such as honey, lots of vanilla pod and country fudge notes. Sensational stuff.

Palate: Well, this is really where the whisky comes into its own- the delicate, yet rich texture in the mouth is about as smooth as i've ever tasted. Not a trace of alcohol burn in the slightest, just layers of smooth malt and grain, with more of that licorice coming back, leaving your mouth with a clean, fresh taste. That may sound like a tooth paste, but mark my words, try this and you'll be really amazed at the clarity it has.

Finish: The finish has some lengthy, spiced notes and this is where the first element of dryness comes through- nothing too oaked, just well balanced and throughly enjoyable.

Overall: We loved the small sample we tried at whisky Live and if anything, to try it for a second time only highlights just what a quality whisky this really is. Contender for our Best In Glass awards this year?..... oh yes...

Many thanks to Hiro Miyamori, Takeshi Tsuruoka and Shinji Fukuyo from Suntory for this insightful tasting and long may they continue to make great whisky!