No one really likes to admit it, but Japanese Whisky has been out performing Scotch for a while now.
It is renowned as some of the best stuff on the market, and while its sales figures have yet to overtake Scotch, its quality might just have done that.
There are not too many distilleries in Japan, but those that are there are continually producing undeniably impressive malt.
It may come as a surprise but distilling has been on the island for more than a century. It wasn’t until a few decades ago that the Whisky produced here really started to make a splash. Since then it has been wining awards all round.
Suntory and Nikka are the two biggest producers and they are good at what they do, across all categories of malt.
Suntory have their own branch of blends called Hibiki, and these show just how good Japanese distilling and blending can be.
Their 12 Year Old is a shining example of just what they can do.
Blended from Hakushu and Yamazaki malts, this expression was finished in plum liqueur barrels, to give it one last fruity kick.
The nose is incredibly fruity. It begins with warming tones of sweet and juicy orange just ready to be squeezed in juice.
There are also apples covered in a thick yet subtle layer of cinnamon. It is definitely there but does not overwhelm.
The plum of the finish appears towards the end of the nose, and is accompanied by a floral honeyed note.
The palate has softer, nutty tones, with almonds and pecans coming to the fore. The fruity notes continue, with more apples and oranges.
These are perforated with hints of cloves and cinnamon that really jump out and give a nice warmth.
The oak of the barrels peeks through every now and again to give a strong backbone to the sifter more subtle flavours of spice.
This malt finishes well, with a slight citrus tang and a heavy drop of apple juice.
If you’re looking for a perfect example of Hibiki’s skills, then their 12 Year Old is definitely the way forward.