October 2015 Archives

Hibiki Japanese Harmony

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Earlier this week we were invited to attend the Canadian launch of Beam Suntory's latest premium blended whisky, Hibiki Japanese Harmony, at Kasa Moto restaurant here in Toronto. Assembled media guests were treated to a component tasting of 5 of the main whiskies from Suntory's Yamazaki, Hakushu and Chita distilleries that were blended to make this expression of the Hibiki blend. Hands down, this was definitely one of the best component tastings and elemental deconstructions I've had the opportunity to enjoy.

Led by Suntory Brand Ambassador Gardner Dunn, we sampled the following cask strength whiskies in the order below before moving on to the main event: 



  • a sweet, almost Bourbon-like, 100% grain (corn) whisky aged in 1st fill ex-Bourbon barrels from the Chita distillery; 
  • a malt whisky aged in American white oak barrels made at the Suntory cooperage with a slightly oily body
  • a rich single malt whisky aged in a cask that formerly held Oloroso sherry and was reminiscent of a classic Macallans
  • a single malt whisky aged in a rare Mizunara oak cask that imbued complex flavours of sandalwood, estery fruit, with an interplay of new leather and smoke;
  • and finally, a single malt velvet hammer of buttery vanilla and smokey peat from Hakushu distillery. 

These aforementioned whiskies, along with at least 5 others, were blended by the Suntory Whisky blending team to produce Japanese Harmony. A family affair, the blending team is led by third and fourth-generation Suntory family members: Master Blender, Shinjiro Torii, who is the great-grandson of Suntory founder Shinjiro Torii; and, fourth-generation Chief Blender, Shinji Fukuyo. As explained by Mr.Dunn, the American White Oak malt whiskies are used for the base note, the Mizunara and sherry cask malt whiskies act as "the dressing" while the smoky malt whiskies provide subtle accents to create depth and further complexity. Finally, the grain whiskies may be considered as the "dashi," or broth and constitute between 60-65% of the blend. 

Bottled at 43% ABV, Hibiki Japanese Harmony will soon replace the 12 year old expression of the Hibiki blend and will serve as the "introduction" to the existing 17 year and 21 year bottles.  

Talisker 10 years old

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Established in 1830, Talisker distillery is located on the Isle of Skye in the Inner Hebridean Scottish Isles. Owned by the global drinks conglomerate, Diageo, Talisker is a featured player in their "Classic Malts of Scotland" collection as it represents the somewhat amorphous "islands" whisky-making region. "Made by the sea," Talisker is well-known and loved the world over for it's balance of peppery sweetness and peat smoke. The 10 year old expression is bottled at 45.8% ABV and commonly appears on the whisky lists of bars, restaurants and lounges the world over. 

It's worth remembering that ubiquity does not always mean boring or dull flavours in the whisky world. Sometimes, when a product is well-crafted, it's common availability is reflective of the universal human demand for greatness. It was this impulse that guided my hand when perusing the shelves at the Gothenburg Systembolaget, the Swedish liquor commission, to select a gift box trio from the "Classic Malts of Scotland" collection that contained Caol Ila 12 year old, Clynelish 14 year old and Talisker 10 year old. With this selection I was looking for not only a great deal, but also to get re-acquainted with whiskies that I'd loved before.

Upon my return, I poured a healthy dram of Talisker and then fired up the blog to compare my current tasting notes with what we wrote about it only to be confronted with a "No results found" message. Perhaps, I'd mispelled it...again, no results. I had it right the first time; somehow we'd overlooked this benchmark bottle in our reviews. A blindspot, no doubt, that I shall now remedy.  

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Recent Comments

  • Ryan commented on Talisker 10 years old:

    John, I can't say that I'd recommend a dip in the North Atlantic but I admire your courage! :) Thanks for the feedback.

  • John commented on Talisker 10 years old:

    Thank you for a great review! I enjoy comparing Talisker's lighter peatiness to Lagavulin 16.

    I appreciate your "brine" and "salty" descriptions. I visited the distillery last summer and took a cold plunge into the water off of a beach on the Isle of Skye. The cold, salty waves slapping my face and lips were like Talisker splashing on my tongue!

  • John commented on Legacy Lost: The Macallan 1824 Series:

    Thank you for this tragic review. I tried Mac Amber and found it to be industrial scotch.

    I visited a number of distilleries in the Spey Valley last summer. Normally the staff are highly competent and enthusiastic whisky tutors. At Macallan, we felt like we were being sold an overpriced used car.

    Macallan 12 is magnificent. I am buying as much as I can before it is gone from U.S. stores. It hasn't been available in Canada for several years.

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