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A few nights ago, I went to a Japanese restaurant I had not been to before. They specialized in sushi and Kaiseki - a tasting of many things selected by the chef. I was here for their amazing Happy Hour - 1/2 price sushi and drinks, but ONLY at the bar which seats around 10 people. The sushi was excellent, properly seasoned - no need for drowning it in soy / wasabi mud. The sake list was amazing, and I was focusing on that. As I worked my way through my first selection, I noticed some familiar bottles on the liquor shelf behind the bar - Yamazaki, Hibiki, Hakushu..."Are those half price too?" I asked jokingly, expecting a firm "No." To my surprise, the barman said that they were, and handed me a drink menu. Standing out like a sore thumb, I saw it: Hibiki 21, 40.00 a pour. I finished my supper, had one more sake, and cleansed my palate for this most decadent of desserts.
My host gave me a generous pour into a large brandy snifter. Light amber, good legs. The large globe of the snifter worked wonders for nose - I may have to buy a pair of these for the house. This was really heady stuff with strong nostril warming alcohol - I mean that in a very good way - not fusel, but perfumey. I took my time nosing this. First impression was that it reminds me of Glenmorangie Signet - Chocolate, espresso, macchiato, carmels. There are flowers, specifically honeysuckle, and maybe some of the plum wine notes that the 12YO hits, but much more concentrated. Whipped cream and vanilla, then something damp, autumnal - wet clay. Then, back to chocolate, milk not dark. I could smell this all night! Taste is full of candy - let's say butterscotch life savers. It is juicy and mouthwatering, with the sweetness being tempered by just the right amount of oaky bitterness. Finishes light but with a lengthy burn. Leaves traces of honey. Residue is bitter on the tongue and in the mouth, but sweet in the throat. Also a pleasant burn that slowly, slowly works its way down.
Good enough for a second pour? You betcha.
Now I just need to find a bottle of my own. With the Suntory purchase of Jim Beam, my understanding is that Hibiki 17 and 21 are now available in the US, but only in select markets. I have seen that some stores in CA are listing the 17, and some in NY are listing the 21 at 149 and 279 respectively. That is pretty steep. I would maybe go as high as 200 on the 21, but I sure did enjoy it, and would certainly consider the purchase.
Wow. You just never know where you are going to find a great whisky experience!