We’ve got a new video for you! It’s about Japanese whisky in everyone’s favorite price range! (We had a problem with the microphone on the next THIRTEEN videos we recorded but we’re working on a permanent fix for next time so it doesn’t happen so please excuse the camera mic audio!) Let us know what you think!
One thought on “Japanese whisky under $100? Let’s!”
Having tasted all these (bar the Coffey Grain), I have to agree with you guys.
On Hibiki Japanese Harmony: the bottle had a similar medium-dark copper color as the 12 Years Old, though with a more reddish tint. The nose was packed with aromas of mint, ripe pineapple, ripe pear, and honey, with a sweet topnote of grain whisky that is absent from the 12 Years Old. There was also an intrusive sulfurous aroma, likely from the components of the blend matured in sherry casks that impart the reddish hue. It’s beginning to become clear what corners were cut in order for Suntory to do away with the age statement. The palate was altogether hotter and more simplistic than the 12 Years Old, starting with rather crude oak flavors, showing some vague fruit at midpalate, and had a very abrupt finish. It would have been a coup for this to live up to the standard of the sublime Hibiki 12 Years Old, but the blender doesn’t quite get there.
The Iwai was fairly poor. Medium-light copper color. Saline nose, with ample oak and a slight lemon juice aroma. The light-bodied palate had some sweet brown sugar flavors, but was otherwise quite mute, and finished short. In total, I found it inoffensive but lacking in character. The remainder of the bottle was destined for mixing in a “haiboru.”
Toki was OK: Pale straw color. Sweet nose showing the Chita grain-dominated blend, with ample mizunara oak imparting a sandalwood nuance. This has a little bit of the green, resinous, pine smell of Hakushu, and a subtly fruity mango aroma. The palate is perfectly smooth and very light bodied, with some lingering vanilla sweetness on the finish. At my most generous, I might compare this to a lighter-style Highland malt like Clynelish, but without nearly as much substance and character. Another one that found its way into many a refreshing highball. For what it’s worth, this was better and more interesting than the Chita grain whisky, which is ridiculously overpriced at >$40/bottle.
Hakushu 12 is my jam. Medium copper color. Robust, forresty nose of pine, with warm butterscotch and rich buttery aromas, ripe apple, meyer lemon, mint leaf, and a faintly smoky hint, accented by the spicy incense aromas of mizunara oak. The whisky was a little stern as it entered the mouth, blossoming warmly at midpalate with ample flavors of juniper berries. There were minty accents on the long, resinous finish, which revisits the sylvan notes of the nose. I have spent a lot of time with this whisky and developed a heightened appreciation for it. This brings a distinct sense of place to the Japanese whisky archetype, which is marked by superb ingredients, exquisite craftsmanship, and elegant balance. Exemplary stuff. We can still buy it on the store shelf here in Chicago for about $80, which cannot be said of the Yamazaki or Hibiki 12 Years Old. I hope they are able to keep producing this one.
Also, you guys might want to check out the NAS Taketsuru from Nikka. It bears more than a passing resemblance to its older siblings (12, 17 and 21 Years Old), which is more than I can say for the Hibiki Harmony. It’s a solid product, likely to become my go-to Japanese whisky now that the age statement bottles are too dear to drink.
Thanks for the video, keep ’em coming!
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