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Suntory Hibiki 21 Year Old

Great Things in Unexpected Places

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@OnibubbaReview by @Onibubba

24th Oct 2014


  • Nose
  • Taste
  • Finish
  • Balance
  • Overall

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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!

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Victor commented

@Onibubba, great review! It is always good to see such enthusiasm, and to hear of another great Japanese whisky.

On another subject, I am a big fan of brandy snifters for whisky nosing AND tasting. In general I find them to be far superior to Glencairn glasses. The big bowl glasses, snifters and otherwise, are especially good, but they are really only practical for home or restaurant/bar use. The big glasses are fragile and cumbersome to try to take on the road.

By the way, are you drinking this Hibiki 21 in the DC area, or are you back home now?

5 years ago 0

Onibubba commented

Back in the DC area, but do not know for how long. I had this at Sushi Taro, 1503 17th St NW. They also had the Hakushu 18 which I had not seen stateside before.

5 years ago 0

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