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Suntory Hibiki 17 Year Old

Plum wine and caramel

0 1183

@systemdownReview by @systemdown

1st Jan 2012

0

  • Nose
    21
  • Taste
    21
  • Finish
    21
  • Balance
    20
  • Overall
    83

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Distribution of ratings for this: brand user

Review of a 18cl (180ml) bottle circa 2005 bottling. My first Japanese whisky experience.

First reaction, from nosing of bottle immediately after cap removal is distinctly and umistakably, of plum wine. A wonderful thing to experience for the first time! I left the bottle alone for 15 minutes before pouring a dram for nosing and tasting and followed up the tasting the next day, these are combined notes with my final score.

Nose: Plum wine prominent, a little "feinty" (for a 17 year old whisky?), caramelised sugar. Caramel intensifies over time and comes to dominate. Not much else in there, except maybe a floral hint.

Taste: Pepper first, followed by red wine (is that some sherry)? Light mouthfeel. A little "bitey". Pepper mellows to something vaguely reminiscent of radish while sherry dissipates, some citrus comes on too. Soft grain sweetness develops. Interesting bitter turn upon swallowing.

Finish: Starts bitter. Dry. Citrus makes an appearance briefly. Quite long and warming! Bitterness dissipates. Left with some soft cereal notes and what might be a hint of that plum.

Balance: Not as "harmonious" (as the translation of Hibiki implies), I find that although certain elements in this whisky work well, they do not combine in such a way as to elevate the overall experience, such as a very good whisky can do.

The caramel somewhat overshadows the exquisite plum in the nose, the sherry notes (and whatever else might have been there to taste) seem to have been "muted" by the grain and there is a discord between nose and taste. Bitterness, whilst tolerable, is not beneficial and tends to be overly prominent during tasting and finishing.

Overall: A good whisky, interesting, but all I'm really left with is "caramel and plum wine" and some mild annoyance at the bitterness. Not as smooth as I'd hoped for. Still a damned good blend, however!

Nose:

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11 comments

@systemdown
systemdown commented

Had a follow-up dram again tonight. I usually do not add water to whiskies at 40-43% ABV, but I thought I'd give it a go and was pleasantly surprised!

With the addition of water, the nose becomes floral and fruity, with an added hint of peat smoke, improving its balance noticeably as the caramel recedes from the forefront. Sadly though, the plum recedes also and is barely noticeable - but given the new found balance in the nose, it's not a major loss.

The taste becomes more well rounded and balanced; now with butter and a touch of aniseed. Bitterness is reduced and finally develops into spice and wine notes. The finish is shortened, but leaves a very nice mouthfeel with a buttery finish.

Wow. This is honestly the first blended whisky I like better with water. I would rate this a little higher (anything up to 85/100) except I believe a whisky should be rated at its bottled strength (unless cask strength), so will let the original verdict stand.

In closing - hidden subtlety and complexity here, definitely try it with water!

7 years ago 0

@jeanluc
jeanluc commented

Nice review @systemdown! I love the 12 year old Hibiki but am yet to try the 17.

7 years ago 0

@mattberg
mattberg commented

Good review, I bought this recently and really enjoyed it... No bitterness in the bottle I have but very smooth and clean ( liquid silk) heaps of cherries, limes and a long spicy finish.... Very floral on the nose with Jasmine and lavender... I couldn't detect the plums but bought a 12 yo last week and the plums really do come through on this... Not as good (as smooth) as the 17 yo for my personal taste which I think is reflected in the price difference.

7 years ago 0

@mattberg
mattberg commented

Would also say the 12 yo is better with water but the 17 yo neat.... These are my first excursions into blends btw apart from black label...

7 years ago 0

@systemdown
systemdown commented

@Jean-Luc and @mattberg thanks for the comments. RE: bitterness - it's not something I've really come across before and I did find it quite odd. Could just be my bottle or a batch effect (given it's an 18cl bottlin and possibly different from what would go into a standard 50 or 70cl bottling)? It IS a smooth whisky though, mine was definitely "silky" with a little water. Would like to try the 12yo for comparison.

7 years ago 0

@systemdown
systemdown commented

Update: 4 weeks after initial tasting, with water, detected new candied lime and butter shortbread on the nose. Sweetness is softer, like demerara sugar. That deserves a couple of extra points for complexity and refinement. Lime continues on the palate intermingling beautifully with the other components. Great mouthfeel. This has definitely improved given a few weeks to breathe.

How I'd score this now (with water): N22 T22 F21 B21 = 86/100

7 years ago 0

@SquidgyAsh
SquidgyAsh commented

I do love how you review weeks after you post your review. It REALLY makes me want to start doing it with my reviews. I think I need to buy myself a calender just for whisky tastings.

7 years ago 0

@Pudge72
Pudge72 commented

Great point @Squidgy Ash. When I get back to adding some reviews, all will be done with the bottle in question open for at least several weeks. I have found, initially via several of @Victor's reviews and now in my own experiences, that the initial dram from a newly open bottle can be quite different from those had once the bottle has been open for a while.

A brief case in point is with Snow Phoenix. The initial couple of drams (within the first three weeks of the bottle being open) presented a fudge type of note on the nose that I really enjoyed. That has now completely disappeared, and I do not read of it on most reviews.

7 years ago 0

@Pudge72
Pudge72 commented

@systemdown...I too wonder about mini-bottles and how representative they are. The handful that I have tried always seem to have a generally more harsh profile than most reviews of said bottle would have you believe. I found this most directly when having mini bottles of Glenlivet 12 and Jameson standard.

7 years ago 0

@systemdown
systemdown commented

@Pudge72 I theorise that the miniature bottles are oxidising faster due to screw caps that are less air tight than cork. So maybe the same whisky, but by the time you have it, it's suffered with time in the bottle?

@SquidgyAsh yes, do a whisky calendar! Or simply add entries to your existing one! These days I need a calendar for everything or I would be lost.. I just do what it says when it says to. Not that I object to being forced to imbibe whisky mind you..

7 years ago 0

@Victor
Victor commented

@systemdown, about the miniatures re: your @Pudge72 response, I am one who has had some quality issues with samples from minis, but I have to say the tastes of the 'off' minis didn't seem like an oxidative effect, e.g."soapy" is most definitely not the product of oxidation, but a defect in production and quality control. Also, for my palate, increased oxidation usually benefits the whiskies in question, rather than harming them. 'Soapiness', for example, is usually gradually dispelled by increasing oxidation. For me, the most common pattern is that only very advanced oxidation causes deteriouration of the flavours.

Also, some argue that the bottle seals are actually tighter with the screw-caps than with the corks. I really don't know how to judge the effectiveness of the the seal of the screw-caps, but it is well known that there is a failure rate of at least on the order of 5% for cork bottle stoppers. There has been lengthy discussion of the cork vs screw-cap issue elsewhere on Connosr, and also general discussions of oxidation effects.

My wife Dramlette thinks that distilleries de-emphasize the quality standards of the minis and are more inclined to put their lesser batches of products there. Me? I really don't know what to think would be a reason for this, since if I were the producer or distributor I wouldn't want any questionable samples of my products floating around to discredit the name of the brand.

7 years ago 0

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