Hibiki 17 Year Review: A Refined Japanese Whisky Journey

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Hibiki 17 Year Review

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Hibiki 17 Year is the flagship blended whisky from the House of Suntory‘s impressive Japanese whisky range. With 17 years of meticulous ageing in plum, Japanese oak (Mizunara), and American oak casks, this is a complex yet harmonious whisky that exemplifies the art of blending.

As an experienced whisky enthusiast who enjoys both single malts and premium blends, I was eager to explore the flavours of this renowned Japanese blend. Does the Hibiki 17 Year live up to its impressive reputation? Let’s dive in and find out.

Hibiki 17 Year Review Table of Contents

Whisky at a Glance

Hibiki 17 Year Review
  • Style: Blended Japanese Whisky
  • Age: 17 Years
  • ABV: 43%
  • Flavor Profile: Honey, baked fruit, cinnamon, sandalwood
  • Price: £689 per 750ml bottle

This is the pinnacle of Suntory’s Hibiki range, composed of over 10 malt and grain whiskies distilled at Yamazaki, Hakushu, and Chita. It is aged for at least 17 years in plum liqueur casks as well as American and Japanese oak.

The Whiskies Inside

Blend Breakdown

The Hibiki 17 Year blend likely contains 30 or more whiskies including single malts from Yamazaki and Hakushu along with grain whisky from Chita. The exact proportions are proprietary but it is known to contain:

  • Yamazaki: Fruity, sherried single malt aged in Mizunara (Japanese oak) casks. Provides complexity.
  • Hakushu: Light, herbal single malt aged in bourbon casks. Adds subtle smoke.
  • Chita: Sweet corn-based grain whisky aged in bourbon casks. Supplies richness.

Production Notes

  • Double pot distilled malts matured in ex-bourbon, Mizunara oak, and plum liqueur casks
  • Column distilled grain whisky aged in American oak ex-bourbon casks
  • The meticulous blending of component whiskies, the youngest being 17 years old
  • Additional ageing as a blended whisky in Mizunara oak casks

What Makes It Special

  • Complex yet harmonious blend showcasing Suntory’s blending expertise
  • Incorporates Japanese plum wine cask influence for fruitiness
  • Aged exclusively in Japan across varied climate zones
  • Limited availability and price as a premium sipping whisky

The Sensory Experience

Appearance

Poured neat in a Glencairn glass, Hibiki 17 presents a deep amber hue. It leaves a thick viscosity coating the sides as it settles. The colour is quite dark for a 17-year-old whisky, speaking to the plum liqueur and Mizunara oak influence.

Aroma

The nose opens with aromas of ripe peach, apricot, vanilla cream, and cinnamon. Further nosing reveals sandalwood, butterscotch, toasted coconut, and a hint of cedar smoke. There is a wonderful fruitiness from the plum casks interwoven with rich oak notes.

Taste

On the palate, Hibiki 17 delivers a burst of sweet plum, dried cherry, and orange marmalade. As it evolves, notes of milk chocolate, honey, baking spices, and dried fig emerge. The texture is satiny and viscous with a subtle oily mouthfeel that coats the tongue.

Finish

The long finish features lingering oak tannins, a touch of smoke, vanilla fudge, and dried fruits. It is smooth and flavorful without any harsh heat from the alcohol. A few drops of water open it up further, amplifying the fruit and floral notes.

Overall Impression

This is an intricately layered, well-balanced whisky. It combines sweet, rich flavours with bright fruit notes and subtle smoke. The blend creates complexity while maintaining an approachable smoothness. Truly an exceptional sipping whisky.

A Brief History of Hibiki 17-Year

The Hibiki blend was introduced in 1989 to showcase Suntory’s blending expertise. Created by combining malts from just Yamazaki and Hakushu, it now also contains Chita grain whisky. The 17 Year was added as the prestigious flagship in 1990. Despite shortages of aged stock, Suntory has maintained the quality and reputation of this blend as the pinnacle of the Hibiki range.

Serving Suggestions

Hibiki 17 Year is best enjoyed neat or with just a few drops of water to open up the flavours and aromas. Ice dulls this exquisite spirit. Sip it slowly from a Glencairn glass to fully savour the experience.

Alternative Reviews

Brand Story

Beginning as a producer of wines and liquors in the early 1900s, Suntory opened Japan’s first malt whisky distillery, Yamazaki, in 1923 under founder Shinjiro Torii. The House of Suntory has gone on to become one of the world’s preeminent whisky producers.

Is Hibiki 17 Worth the Price?

At over £600 a bottle, the Hibiki 17 Year is certainly a premium product. However, given the quality, reputation, and limited availability, it delivers solid value for the price as a special occasion sipper. Here’s why Hibiki 17 justifies its price tag:

  • Complexity: The intricate blend of 30+ aged whiskies creates unparalleled depth and balance.
  • Reputation: Hibiki 17 is widely regarded as one of the finest Japanese whiskies ever made.
  • Rarity: Limited stocks and high demand make this a coveted bottle for collectors and connoisseurs.
  • Luxury Experience: From the elegant bottle to the exquisite flavours, Hibiki 17 delivers a truly luxurious whisky experience.

For those hesitant about the price, consider saving Hibiki 17 for special occasions and sharing it with fellow whisky lovers who will appreciate its quality. Cheaper alternatives like Hibiki Japanese Harmony (£74) or Akashi White Oak Blend (£33) offer an intro to Japanese blends at a lower cost.

For Whisky Lovers

If you enjoy lighter, more delicate whiskies, you likely won’t love the richer, oak-influenced Hibiki 17 Year. However, if you like sherried Scotch or bourbon, you’ll find this complex Japanese blend appealing. The plum cask influence adds a signature fruitiness not found in many malts.

This is a whisky best enjoyed neat during moments of contemplation – a celebration with good company or a quiet nightcap.

Cocktails & Food Pairings

Cocktail Suggestions

  • Japanese Highball: Hibiki 17 Year, chilled soda water, a twist of lemon peel
  • Hibiki Old Fashioned: Hibiki 17 Year, brown sugar, Angostura bitters, orange peel

Food Matches

  • Sushi & sashimi
  • Yakitori chicken skewers
  • Seared scallops, pork belly
  • Crème brûlée, bread pudding, apple tart

The Hibiki 17 Year has enough complexity to stand up to rich foods and complement sweeter flavours. Its fruitiness also pairs nicely with citrus.

Head-to-Head

Hibiki 17 vs Yamazaki 12

While both are refined Japanese whiskies, Hibiki 17 and Yamazaki 12 offer distinct flavour profiles:

  • Hibiki 17: Fruity and honeyed with plum notes from the blend of malt and grain whiskies.
  • Yamazaki 12: Spicier and drier with a stronger sherry influence from the single malt.

Hibiki 17’s additional age and blending complexity give it an edge, but Yamazaki 12 is an excellent choice for those preferring bolder, sherry-driven flavours.

What Sets Hibiki 17 Apart

The Hibiki 17-Year blend is uniquely balanced, combining oakiness, fruit flavours, and subtle smoke. It is more harmonious than the Yamazaki 12 Year and more complex than the Macallan 18 Year. The plum cask influence adds signature fruit notes.

Where to Buy Hibiki 17

  • Online Retailers: Drizly, ReserveBar
  • Specialty Stores: Total Wine, BevMo!, Astor Wines & Spirits
  • International Markets: Travel Retail/Duty-Free, select whisky shops in Japan and Asia

Note that due to limited availability, prices and selection may vary. It’s best to check local retailers or look for Hibiki 17 when travelling abroad.

The Verdict

Summary Opinion

Hibiki 17 Year is a refined, beautifully balanced whisky that exemplifies the blending expertise of Suntory’s master distillers. The complexity of flavours and elegant presentation make this a whiskey to savour.

Rating

I rate this exceptional Japanese whisky 9 out of 10 stars for its smoothness, balance, and intricate blending.

Would I Buy It Again?

Absolutely. This is a special occasion whisky worth the splurge, especially if you can find it at a reasonable price. The complexity rewards slow sipping and contemplation. I would be thrilled to have this bottle on my shelf to share with fellow whisky enthusiasts.

About the author

One response to “Hibiki 17 Year Review: A Refined Japanese Whisky Journey”

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