Distiller: Suntory. ABV: 43%. Age: 17 years. Price: $150+.
The Hibiki 17 is a masterpiece of balance–a tour de force by the master blenders at Japanese spirits giant Suntory. I also happen to know it’s also a personal favorite of our friend Mark Bylok, he of of the Whisky Topic podcast, Whisky Cabinet book, and whsky.buzz website.
It’s also devilishly hard to find. Not quite as much as the excellent Yamazaki 18, but close. Don’t break the bank for a bottle, but don’t pass it up at a reasonable price.
The nose has distinct cedar and sandalwood notes. Much bolder than the Hibiki 12 or no-age-statement Hibiki Harmony. Plenty of fresh vanilla. Saltwater taffy. A touch of banana. Anisette toast. Excellent.
The palate achieves that harmony of distinct elements that reminds me of the global Malt & Grain blend by master Ichiro Akuto. A delicate dance of sweetness and spice–fresh ginger and white pepper sprinkled on fresh-cut apple and pear–with a very subtle smokiness. The finish brings that anisette toast back, along with just enough bite to make sure you’re paying attention.
It’s a world away from the ultra-rich and velvety Yamazaki 18, but if you get a chance to taste the two side-by-side, they provide a brilliant study in the range Japanese whisky is capable of. The Hibiki 17 is all balance, the Yamazaki 18 all boldness. Both will bring a big smile to any whisky lover’s face.
Kanpai, friends! -BO