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Suntory Hibiki 12 Year Old

This is how to use grain in a blend

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@hunggarReview by @hunggar

2nd Apr 2013


  • Nose
  • Taste
  • Finish
  • Balance
  • Overall

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I haven’t tried much in the way of Japanese whiskies. This will be my first review of one. In keeping with the blend kick I’ve been on lately, I figured I’d start off with the Hibiki 12. Admittedly, the bottle helped a bit. There are a few discussions on connosr about bottle shapes and presentation. Personally, I’d like to think that I’m beyond such trivial matters, and that I can only be swayed by the quality of the contents of the bottle. But that’s simply not true. The gorgeous bottle caught my eye and peaked my interest, so I grabbed it.

Nose: Light and bourbony, with big cereal, heather, and vanilla. Coconut, citrus, pineapple, and banana. A somewhat tropical character in terms of the fruity notes. Ralfy mentioned donuts and French pastries in his review. I get that. Some really nice floral notes here as well. It’s a light nose, but not lacking in complexity. Unlike Scotch blends, the grainy notes don’t seem to weaken this nose. If I didn’t know otherwise, I might assume this is a single malt based on the nose.

Palate: Creamy mouthfeel. A bit of bitter almond. Seriously nutty arrival, actually. Some nice barley, malty notes here. Honey, vanilla, and more roasted nuts.

Finish: Honey, nutmeg, and white pepper. The roasted nuts from the palate remain throughout the medium finish. I’m finally detecting a bit of a grain presence in this blend, but it’s not nearly as prominent as it tends to be in Scotch blends.

Overall, this is a fine whisky. It’s certainly a quality blend that you wouldn’t want to waste in a mixer. Very enjoyable on its own, but be sure to go easy on the water. In fact, I’m enjoying this neat. If I had to make a complaint, I’d say I would have liked a bit more complexity on the palate. Regardless, this is an undeniably wonderful blend.

I’m not too familiar with Japanese blends, but the notes from the grain fillers which often disrupt or harshen Scotch blends seem lighter and more pleasant. They are perceptible in the palate and the finish, but they don’t seem to ‘cheapen’ the drink. It’s just quality stuff. A bit overpriced, but very good. I’m interested in trying out some more Japanese blends now. I’ve heard from a few reviewers mention that Japanese grains are sweeter, less harsh, and integrate better into the character of the whisky. The Hibiki 12 certainly supports those claims. Definitely something I’ll have to investigate further…

Related Suntory Hibiki reviews


Rigmorole commented

Wasn't aware this one had a grain blend. Well, if so, it's too expensive for that. I find it to be "pretty vacant" in a nice summery way. An attractive drink without too much character, kind of like a runway model with no curves. And yes, my allusion was to the song by Sex Pistols.


9 years ago 0

hunggar commented

Haha, well put. I like the nutty notes in this, and I appreciate how the grain whisky was masterfully blended with the malts. But it's definitely too expensive, and not worth the money givem the lack of complexity on the palate. Light and pleasant, but nothing special. Now that I own the bottle (my new decanter), I doubt I'll be buying this again. Impressive use of grain, though, hence the positive review.

9 years ago 0

vrudy6 commented

Dude! I bought a bottle along with a buddy of mine for a little shindig about three months ago. So, along with other friends, we downed it in one evening. I didn't get to sit down with it on my own and take my time to do a review. But, I had enough to remember the experience of this fine whisky. And I gotta say, as I read your review, it all came back! You hit it right on the nail. That's exactly how I feel about Hibiki 12. The details of the nose, palate, and finish are right on point, or better yet, "in par" with my experience. I agree, with a little water, it kinda drained it. It was too herbal for me. I like it neat. Its weird, cause for a blend, it sort of drinks like a single malt. Everybody was impressed that night, including myself. The only thing I disagree is the rating, If I would've reviewed this I would probably rate this a little higher. Great review as always @Hunggar.

7 years ago 0

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