A passing glance at my content is all it takes to see where my whisk(e)y preferences lie. That may not be surprising, given how copious and relatively affordable options for American whiskey are. Yet they make a world of difference for the ever-curious drinker that I am. I do still try to expand my horizons every so often, and while scotch may be considered the default go-to for exploration, I’ve found more intrigue in the niche subcategory that is Japanese whisky. This may surprise those of you who recall my Caribou Crossing and Crown Royal Noble Rye reviews, since the conditions for being labeled Japanese whisky make it seem like an odd cross between scotch and Canadian whisky. In fact, until recently, the actual production of Japanese whisky was moderated to a fairly loose degree.
Perhaps the general obscurity and still somewhat underground nature of Japanese whisky is key to my curiosity. Even at the low end, Suntory Whisky Toki made for a more interesting drinking experience than some of the similarly priced (and pricier) scotches I’ve tried. Then I got to try Nikka from the Barrel and found myself that much more pensive. Now we’re giving a third expression a look: Hibiki Harmony. Details on Suntory’s site are, aside from suggested tasting notes, on the scarce side for each individual expression in the Hibiki line. Master of Malt claims the whisky blend draws “from 5 different types of cask, including American white oak casks, Sherry casks and Mizunara oak casks. The blend itself was crafted by the Suntory Whisky blending team, led by Master Blender Shingo Torii.” I got to try this thanks to a sample sent courtesy of a fellow whisk(e)y fan. Let’s see what I get.
Nose: Honey. Some fruit, citrus, and vanilla accents. White grapes and honeycrisp apple. A bit floral, like a white/green tea leaf blend. Slightly vegetal, but also with oak and peach with whispers of raisins.
Palate: Light-medium. Honey, warm baked fruits, and light caramel/vanilla. Sweet and full upfront with warm, heavily honeyed pear, green apple, and white grapes. A bit of oak bitters on the back. Honeydew. Honey flatbread that’s just barely toasted. Did I mention honey? Surprisingly silky and rounded off for a NAS blend with neutral grain spirit.
Finish: Short and light. Traces of oak, honey, and tea. Hints of dried apple and pear barely hang around.
Now that’s nice. Harmony honestly lives up to its name thanks to its initial richness that soon mellows out into a finish with the slightest bit of oak and fruity residuals. I don’t normally favor drams with short finishes, but I’m more open to Harmony’s brevity. Perhaps this is because I’ve grown accustomed to whiskies with underwhelming noses and/or palates having weak finishes to boot. Not so much the case here. The nose got my eyebrows to perk up a number of times and the palate achieves a wonderful balance of flavor that’s tough to not smile or grin through.
Of course, in order to get this experience, you’ll probably have to pay a considerable price. I didn’t bother looking up what a bottle of Harmony would cost until after I finished my sample. By the time I did, I said I’d be content paying up to $60 for a bottle, which is appropriate, because the person who sent me the sample said they bought it for $60 before the cost went up. The lowest asking price I’ve found for Harmony is $87.99, but some online shops potentially asking well over $100. Such a jump in price is simply too steep in my eyes. I’d still say this is a must-try, being that it’s my favorite of the three Japanese whiskies I’ve had, I just can’t suggest purchasing a bottle unless your wallet is feeling overweight.