The world of Japanese whisky keeps contracting and expanding, with the discontinuation of beloved age statement bottles and the addition of new limited-edition whiskies. Suntory’s Hibiki brand has been subject to both—the 17-year-old expression was discontinued a few years ago, but now there’s the new limited-edition Hibiki Blossom Harmony, and this whisky is quite unique.
Hibiki is a revered Japanese whisky blend from Suntory, which was first introduced in 1989 and quickly became a favorite among whisky fans of all categories. The blend is comprised of malt and grain whiskies from Suntory’s three distilleries—Yamazaki, Hakushu and Chita (which provides the grain whisky component). Hibiki Harmony, a NAS blend, arrived a few years ago, but the new Blossom Harmony is something completely different. This blend includes whiskies finished in sakura, or Japanese cherry blossom, casks. At a recent media event, we got to taste one component whisky that was finished in sakura casks, a grain whisky from Chita, and the palate was transformed almost into an eau-de-vie, or un-aged fruit brandy. That flavor is softened but definitely present on the palate of the final blend, which has strong floral notes of honey, stone fruit, cherry and spring blossoms.
“I have been mesmerized by the sakura cask for the last five years now due to its symbolism, but also because of its distinctive, subtly floral and spicy aroma and flavor notes,” said fifth-generation chief blender Shinji Fukuyo in a statement. “There have been many experiments with malt and grain whisky components, and we found that there was a special alchemy between the grain whiskies and the sakura cask. It is this special relationship–harmony–that inspired me to create this blend.”
The other news from Suntory is that the rare and expensive Hibiki 30, first released in 1997, will now be available as a permanent addition to the portfolio in the US on a very limited basis. Just a few thousand bottles of this blend are produced each year, so Hibiki 30 will likely be sold for well above its already impressive $5,000 SRP. Hibiki Blossom Harmony is available now with an SRP of $160 across the US and in many other countries—but no surprise, looks like the secondary market has already beefed up its price as well. But let’s stay positive, and happy hunting to the diehards.