Rich amber in colour and known for its delicious sweet woody tones from ageing in former sherry casks, Hibiki Master Select is a leader among whiskies. What is the story behind this smooth and unique dram from an iconic Japanese whisky producer?
The Story of Japanese Whisky
When you shop for Japanese whisky in Singapore, you probably feel curious about how this classic spirit arrived in a culture so far away from its Scottish and Irish roots.
The answer is that whisky forged its way in Japan thanks to an ambitious entrepreneur named Shinjiro Torii who had an insatiable appetite for innovation. A pharmacist by training, he started out as a liquor importer but soon turned to whisky production – a direction that was to become his life’s work. Building on decades of low-key whisky production across Japan, in 1923 he built the first commercial distillery of malt whisky in a suburb of Kyoto. With production in an area famed for the high quality of its water and a distillery headed by a Japanese Scottish-trained master, Torii’s dream was to make whisky that reflected the Japanese terroir and philosophical approach. His company became known as Suntory, one of the leading names in Japanese whisky and the producer of Hibiki Master Select.
Japanese whisky did not venture beyond the shores of the Land of the Rising Sun until after the millennium when it quickly made up for its absence. Japanese brands started to win a steady stream of accolades at major international wines and spirits competitions. Suntory garnered its fair share of trophies and prizes and in 2010 was awarded the “Whisky Distiller of the Year” at the International Spirits Challenge for consistent quality across its range.
Hibiki Master Select Blend and Taste
When you buy whisky online, it is worthwhile finding out about the taste and production methods to help inform your choice.
“Hibiki” is the Japanese word for “resonance”. It refers to the taste of Hibiki Master Select which reflects nature’s contribution to its subtle flavours. The Master Blender at Suntory tastes 300 malt whisky samples each day in the aim to find the perfect blend. This exclusive dram is a testament to the rich woody taste of this perfectionist approach.
One of the stand-out features of this select blend is ageing in sherry casks. This imparts gentle sweet woody and spicy tones from nose to finish. Indeed, the first smell of Hibiki Master Select reveals floral notes and plummy, syrupy hints underpinned by sumptuous wood. The nose blooms on a deliciously slightly bitter palate with dark chocolate and marmalade all leading to a subtle honey finish laced with satisfying acidity.
This exclusive blend of multiple malt and grain whiskies from three Suntory distilleries is aged in five different kinds of casks. These include American and Mizunara or Japanese oak and the aforementioned sherry casks. The oak from the United States imbues the blend with vanilla, coconut and sandalwood comes from the homegrown tree and a deep, rich sweetness is courtesy of the sherry-soaked casks.
How to Enjoy Hibiki Master Select
The beauty of Japanese whisky is you can enjoy it in so many ways. Whether you are after a neat, clean taste or a winter warmer, this historic spirit never disappoints. Its different guises are also easy to make so you do not need a special preparation spot or fancy bar implements.
How about a Highball for example? This icey mix brings out the distinct flavour of Hibiki Master Select and enhances the flavour profile of food. You simply fill a glass with ice and allow it to chill, add a unit of whisky, follow up with soda water and add a twist of citrus fruit for extra refreshment. If you prefer a more intense taste experience, go for a neat dram. After pouring a serving of whisky into a room-temperature glass, prepare a chaser to taste afterwards. A chaser can enhance whisky flavours and can be anything from fruit juice to beer! Alternate lengthy sips of both to highlight the taste of the whisky on your palate. Of course, this spirit is a wonderful warming drink as well. For this concoction, fill a heat-resistant glass cup to warm it up then drain. Fill the toasty cup a third of the way with whisky then top it up with hot water. After a gentle stir, you are ready to enjoy one of the best antidotes to cold weather.
When you buy whisky from liquor stores in Singapore, you are faced with a huge choice of possibilities from all over the world. Now that you know about Hibiki Master Select, why not sample it? It is perfect for solo enjoyment and for sharing with friends at your next get together. Kanpai!