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 Ezra Brooks 7 Year Old:

    Yikes! What a jump in price!? In the meantime, I hope this flies under the radar but then again once the new version of Ezra is widely released I don't doubt that the LCBO will take full advantage and jack up the price....

    I think you might see price increases in the near future on bourbon across the board in the LCBO as Canada's retaliatory tariffs on bourbon to US tariffs on Canadian steel really kick-in. Once existing bourbon stock is depleted at the LCBO and they need to re-stock I bet we'll see the entire category bumped up a few dollars.

  • Ryan commented on Forty Creek Heart of Gold:

    Wow! I thought they'd all been drunk by now. Thanks for the heads-up Dennis.

    Xmas is just around the corner so who knows - you may get a bite from someone looking to give "their" Dennis a special bottle! :)

  • Dennis Wallace commented on Forty Creek Heart of Gold:

    I have an unopened bottle of Forty Creek "Heart of Gold" from lot "1972" bottle number "3714" in its original box. What makes it unique is that it is autographed to me, by John Hall in 2013, inscribed in Gold Ink on the back of the bottle. It is a one of a kind collectors item, and I am prepared to part with it for the right price.

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