Can Whisky be Zen? Suntory Hibiki Japanese Harmony is the best of East and West… it is traditional Japanese craftsmanship joined with 300 years of Western whisky-making know how and technique.
Suntory… today the name virtually defines the beverage business in Japan. Founded in 1899 to import and distribute wine, they quickly branched out into their own products in 1907. In 1923, they stepped out again, this time into the nearly sacrilegious effort of distilling a single-malt Whisky in Japan. But the dogmatic traditionalist of the spirit-loving West soon forgave Suntory’s heresy for the most pragmatic of reasons … they made great Whisky and pioneered the delicate and problematic use of Mizunara Oak in the process.
In the 90 years since then, Suntory has expanded through home grown brands and the acquisition of established business around the world. Perhaps most notable of which was their acquisition to American distiller Beam, Inc. in 2014, bringing their world-wide sales to more than $10 billion per year. Not too shabby. Their various holdings produce dozens of whiskies, beers, liqueurs, and soft drinks that span the globe.
A beautiful Japanese girl approaches you, her black Kimono shining in the lamp light. She is carrying a tray with crystal stemware and a bottle of Hibiki Japanese Harmony upon it. As she arrives at your table, she gently bows, brushes a red, silk cloth across the rim of your glass, and then pours the spirit slowly… allowing the sweet perfume of the spirit time to rise. Then she presents it to you with both hands.
The sights, sounds, aroma and taste become a ceremony worthy of the craftsmanship. Each of the senses is satisfied and they are meaningful, purposeful, gentle and… in harmony with each other.
Hibiki means harmony. And that is exactly what this whisky is… a harmony of at least five premium whisky styles of various ages and aging methods. And while four of those are single malts, the fifth is a grain from the Chita peninsula in central Japan. Some lesser producers use these techniques to hide inferior spirits in the mix, Suntory Hibiki Japanese Harmony is doing just the opposite. This is a top-flight attempt to find a new taste, a new experience. And you cannot fool the Whisky community, who have made Hibiki one of the most honored Whiskies in the world, bar none.
“For relaxing times, make it a Suntory time,” Bill Murray said a few times in the movie “Lost in Translation”. He was actually drinking the Suntory Hibiki. Oh and yes, Sean Connery also drank Suntory (Old) in the James Bond movie You Only Live Twice.