Hibiki – 12-year-old blended whisky
Japanese whisky! Often very good, often surprisingly expensive. Here’s a blended whisky that’s at the cheaper end (you can find it on discount in Waitrose and Booths from time to time) and readily available. Most bars seem to have a bottle these days, along with Yamazaki. The bottle is nice too – I plan to wring some extra value from my purchase by sticking homemade sloe gin or pacharan in it.
Nose: Touch of solvent on first pouring, but things buck up quickly. It’s got some Speyside grassiness, plus vanilla and marzipan. There’s also a very distinct grape/plum note – it smells exactly like Japanese grape gummy candy. Supposedly some of the whisky in this blend is matured in ume plum liqueur casks, so maybe that’s where it comes from?
Taste: Well, yeah, it’s a bit blendy and lacks much oomph. There’s lemon and ginger, a bit of apple juice carton. Fades away quickly, too, but then…
Finish: Comes back quite strongly with some spiciness and sugary black tea. There’s marmalade and mandarins too. And then the grape note returns – it’s somewhere between that weirdly artificial-seeming American purple grape juice and that lush near-black Polish plum jam.
It’s an odd one this. It’s a bit nondescript apart from the grape/plum note, which is both unique in my experience and something I can imagine some people not liking (it does teeter towards going all Jolly Ranchers on you). Personally I like it – vaguely reminding me of Zwetschgenkuchen and tea with sugar crystals in my Oma’s parlour as it does – and certainly the aftertaste is by far the most interesting part of this blend. It’s not a complete or balanced Japanese blend (like, say, Nikka’s From the Barrel or Pure Malt Black), but it’s certainly worth trying a dram when you next see it behind a bar.