Simon Wittenberg attends an exclusive tasting in the esteemed company of the House of Suntory’s Chief Blender to sample the new limited edition 2022 Hibiki® Blossom Harmony™ blended whisky.
Shinji Fukuyo was appointed Chief Blender for the House of Suntory in 2009 – only the fifth person to have the privilege of holding this position at the company. He was also named Executive Officer in 2014 and Whisky Quality Advisor of Beam Suntory in 2018 – an impressive CV. With a clear passion for whisky and comprehensive knowledge to match, Shinji Fukuyo is responsible for overseeing all of Suntory’s releases, including those within the multi-award-winning and highly sought-after Hibiki, Yamazaki and Hakushu portfolios.
The focus for the evening was the arrival of the new limited edition 2022 Hibiki Blossom Harmony blended whisky. Hibiki means “Resonance” in Japanese, and the brand’s bottle design, introduced in 1989, is unique in that it has 24 narrow faces (a 24-sided shape is called an “icositetragon” for those wondering), which is a nod to the 24 hours of a day, and the 24 “Sekki” or micro-seasons, found within the Japanese lunar calendar. Furthermore, the thinking behind the 24 facets is that it allows those enjoying Hibiki to see a narrative of history and time first-hand.
The Hibiki Harmony blend was unveiled in 2015 and uses single malt and grain whiskies sourced from the Osaka-based House of Suntory’s respective Yamazaki, Hakushu and Chita distilleries. The limited edition Blossom Harmony blend was unveiled last year solely in Suntory’s home territory of Japan, becoming the first Hibiki to be aged in casks using wood from the Sakura or Japanese cherry tree – synonymous with the beautiful flowers they produce.
The 2022 edition is, therefore, the second expression to “blossom” in the series (excuse the pun) and the first Blossom Harmony release for the “rest of the world” for countries such as the UK, Taiwan and China, amongst many others.
However, this year’s iteration of Blossom Harmony is not so new for Japan. When you do your research, 1,000 bottles were released via an online lottery for 11,000 Yen (around £70) back in May 2022. This explains why some have already gone under the hammer online with a slightly different look to the “rest of the world” packaging, with values easily hitting in the realms of £300.
Bottled at 43% ABV, Hibiki Blossom Harmony is, in fact, a non-age statement (NAS) whisky, contrary to some other Hibikis, such as the highly-prized 21 and the 30 Year Old, which we also had the privilege of sampling during the evening. Therefore, there’s no indication of the age of the youngest blends that lie within.
To delve deeper into the components that make Hibiki what it is today, Shinji Fukuyo guided us through a selection of six different drams, starting with American white oak malt whisky and Mizunara cask malt whisky before moving on to the Hakushu smoky single malt whisky, and to Hibiki Japanese Harmony itself, setting the scene for the awaiting Hibiki Blossom variant.
With the palate then treated to a 12-course Asian-western-style fusion dinner set against a backdrop of the four seasons shown on the surrounding video walls, whisky-based cocktails were paired with elegantly-prepared and intricate dishes, such as cherry tomato-infused ponzu with samphire, potato salad with chive, and avocado Temari.
With taste buds primed, Shinji Fukuyo re-took to the stage to formally unveil the eagerly-awaited 2022 Hibiki Blossom Harmony blended whisky. Sporting an elegant red and light green embossed floral motif on the box, similar to the design used for the 2021 packaging, with a simple Blossom Harmony moniker on the actual bottle, the limited edition begins with an enticing floral bouquet when nosed, followed by the signature Hibiki depth and complexity of honey, candied orange peel, jasmine and chocolate.
The long finish features surprising, bittersweet spicy notes. It’s a work of art from Shinji Fukuyo thanks to the subtle aromas, and the House of Suntory’s Chief Blender remarked that the grain whiskies finished in the Sakura cask best elevated the overall balance, thereby producing an end result of a particularly distinctive expression of Hibiki.
The new limited edition 2022 Hibiki® Blossom Harmony™ has an RRP of £175, and with this being a first-time release for the UK, amongst other markets, there is no doubt that this expression will be on the radar of whisky aficionados and collectors alike. Stockists include Master of Malt, The Whisky Exchange, Amathus, Milroys and Soho Wines.
The 2022 Hibiki Blossom Harmony – Where and How?
For more information on the new limited edition 2022 Hibiki Blossom Harmony blended whisky, visit https://whisky.suntory.com.
See photos and videos from the exclusive Hibiki tasting on the Luxurious Magazine Instagram page.