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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…