On a mild summer’s evening in London, Suntory held a very special invite only event to celebrate the launch of Hibiki Japanese Harmony.
I must confess, writing this Hibiki Japanese Harmony review is a real privilege for me.
The launch event was one of those ‘meeting a hero’ moments as I’ve loved Suntory and all they stand for for years. In fact Hibiki 17 was the very first bottle of world whisky I bought for my whisky collection way back when so there have been many happy brand experiences as well as liquid experiences over the years.
I had not been to a Suntory event before but had high expectations from the House of Suntory Whisky as their history is one of detail, precision and high achievement.
Before I get into the Hibiki Japanese Harmony review, I have to say this was one of the most enjoyable launch events I’ve been to, and I know I said that about the recent red wine finished Green Spot launch before you call me up on it, but this ranks up there with that event for a simple, and similar reason: Honesty.
By honesty I mean that Mr. Fukuyo took us through a tasting of all the component whiskies that made up the blend. Naturally the proportions are kept under close guard far from me but being able to understand the exact inputs that go into a blend really helped to understand the finished product and how he got there.
Anyway, on with the Hibiki Harmony review.
I turned up, was welcomed by the lovely staff and invited to enjoy a cocktail from the ‘Four Seasons’ cocktail menu.
What was the Suntory event all about? Here’s the downlow:
Londoners are invited to escape the chaos of the city and immerse themselves in Japanese tradition, as they experience the rich heritage and craftsmanship of Hibiki Japanese Harmony. Guests will be taken on a journey beginning in the Harmony Lounge and culminating in the Harmony Bar, with a world first sensory experience.
Every detail was thought through.
The launch was set in an art gallery in amongst the buzz of bustling Soho, Central London with bespoke bamboo table and chairs made especially for the event.
I have always been a sucker for the 24-faceted bottle structure of Suntory and Hibiki releases. The bottle is iconic. It screams premium and it looks like there’s something luxurious inside.
Why 24 facets, I hear you ask. To represent the 24 seasons in Japan.
How would I describe Hibiki Japanese Harmony? Delicately balanced with plenty of depth.
After the cocktail and some much-enjoyed mingling, I took my seat at the tasting tables to hear speeches from the Suntory brand manager for the UK as well as the man himself: Chief Blender Shinji Fukuyo.
Being able to meet and speak with the man was a very special part of this experience and what I believe makes this Hibiki Japanese Harmony review a gem. Having my photo with Mr. Fukuyo was even more special.
Shinji Fukuyo was flown in specially from Japan for the event which is the world’s first Hibiki Japanese Harmony Bar and Hibiki Harmony itself represents a new chapter in Japanese whisky.
Mr. Fukuyo talks about how he respects the complex and how a healthy understanding of whisky history helps him to define the future. This is what he calls Harmony.
As he went through the presentation, at a leisurely and unlaboured pace, it was astounding how many types of whisky get produced at the three distilleries Suntory owns in Japan. This is all possible by using varied equipment – steel and wooded vats, sixteen pot stills, seven types of stills heated with both direct fire and steam.
Hibiki as a brand of whisky has been in existence since 1989, and was created to commemorate 90 years since the formation of the Suntory Corporation in 1899. It has gone on to win the most awards for any range in the Suntory portfolio.
Hibiki Japanese Harmony seems to genuinely intrigue Mr. Fukuyo, it was the first time he had used younger than 12 Year Old whisky, we were told, but he needed to “to sustain development and volumes” going forward and to protect the future.
Once the presentation drew to a close with rapturous applause, we began the six whisky tasting, again not laboured, more to show inputs and component parts of the finished product so notes were thin mostly as we went through at quite a rapid pace!
Hibiki Harmony bar: tasting notes
Dram One - Chita Grain - Cask Strength
7/8 Year Old
Nose: Soft, butterscotch
Palate: warming and lots more butter
Dram Two - US White Oak - Cask Strength
5/6 Year Old
Nose: Very very very fruity, oodles of green apples
Palate: Underlying smoke, more fresh fruit
Finish: New make, lingers
Dram Three - Sherry Cask Malt - Cask Strength
Palate: Deep, power, genuinely amazing
Dram Four - Japanese Oak - Cask Strength
12 Year Old
Incredible contrast in the different oaks and the affect they have on the spirit.
Palate: Rich, spices, wisps of smoke
Dram Five - Smokey Malt - Cask Strength
Nose: Gorgeous, light but prominent smoke
Palate: Softer than the nose, Laphroaig-esque, musk, dry, smoke
Nose: Light wood, fresh, lighter than it should be following the component parts sampling, mellows
Palate: Fun, prominent smoke, smooth, holds its flavour
Finish: Medium length
We then went to an ice ball demonstration which was fascinating, although I think I will be buying a mould for home mostly due to the time it takes to make one!
Finally we headed to a really smart RFID -enabled Hibiki Japanese Harmony Bar where each person has a bespoke glass that by performing a series of actions triggered different elements of a scene to take place, simulating the seasons in Japan. The is surprisingly tough to explain in words but it was immersive, interesting, and most importantly fun.
All in all a fabulous launch and my profuse thanks to Suntory for the invite and congratulations on a fantastic release in Hibiki Harmony. I only hope my Hibiki Japanese Harmony review does the whisky justice.