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On a holiday in Japan I visited Yamazaki distillery a few days ago and made use of the opportunity to sample the Hibiki 30yo. Hibiki is made with malt whisky from Hakushu and Yamazaki as well as with grain whisky from the Chita distillery.
The nose starts with very grainy notes and flavours of honey, fudge and cheesecake. There is some vanilla, too, but just a whiff of it. Later on a soft smoke note develops, followed by more cheesecake and a hint of milk chocolate. Beautifully balanced and wonderfully complex!
The palate is full-bodied and unexpectedly spicy and prickly on the tongue - no doubt the 30 years in the casks have left their imprint. Then there is sweetness: honey, pineapple and apricots, all superbly balanced. Towards the end notes of leather and dark, bitter chocolate appear.
The finish is warming, long and lingering. The grainy flavours from the nose are back, together with honey and apricots and followed by a touch of cinnamon.
I have to say this was a memorable tasting session. How I would love to own a bottle of this to further explore its manifold facettes - unfortunately this is not really an option given the current retail price. I was stunned by the nose whose complexity and balance can hold its own against many a 30-year old single malt. The intensity of the spice on the palate was a bit surprising but did not do any harm to the overall balance, and the finish was a worthy ending to this momentous whisky. This is the art of blending at its very best, bravo!