Suntory’s first big announcement of 2021, back in January, was of two limited-edition variants on their two biggest brands: Yamazaki Limited Edition 2021 and Hibiki Blossom Harmony 2021. They were both released on May 25 and sold out almost immediately everywhere. There are allegedly 30,000 of each of these kicking around. They both had RRPs of ¥8800 (after tax, around €67 or $80), but now grace auction sites for 10x that.
Our focus here is the Hibiki Blossom Harmony.
Coldorak’s Note: today we welcome a guest author, Mac aka Kanpai Planet, who does Youtube reviews of Japanese whiskies and other Japanese drinks on his Youtube channel. Yōkoso!
A bit of Hibiki history
Hibiki is Suntory’s premium blend brand, released in 1989 to commemorate the 90th anniversary of their founding. Hibiki 21 is a 6-time winner of World’s Best Blended Whisky at the World Whisky Awards. Prior to this, Hibiki hasn’t seen yearly limited-edition releases, but the series has seen a number of variants outside of its age-statement releases, such as Deep Harmony, Mellow Harmony, Master Select for the airport market and Blender’s Choice.
Hibiki Blossom Harmony 2021 featured a blend of standard Hibiki with sakura cask finished whiskies. One of the things I liked about the new Japanese whisky standards is that they didn’t impose any specification on cask types. So we have the freedom to mess around here. Akashi AKA The White Oak Distillery has gone all-in on cask diversification, for example, Tequila, Cognac, Mizunara, Bourbon, Red Wine, Oloroso … even Japanese Sake cask editions.
Cherry blossoms are the most revered of all the blooms in Japan, and the excuse for the two-week party called ‘Hanami’. This literally means flower viewing, which sounds very sophisticated, but, well, is actually a two-week piss up.
Hibiki Blossom Harmony 2021
Blossom Harmony is sold in 700 ml classic Hibiki-shaped bottles at 43% ABV. The box is decorated with ‘100 flowers suitable for celebration’. The label is also beautiful, emblematic of Suntory’s attention to detail when it comes to product design. It’s intended for the gift-giving season of Ochugen. Japanese custom calls for the giving of gifts twice a year to someone who is taking care of you. This duty is performed once in the summertime, called ochugen and once at the end of the year, called oseibo.
Floral … obviously. Sakura and sakura mochi (a type of Japanese dessert) dominate. Hints of olive and kumquat. Very enticing and inviting.
A burst of cherry cake, cherry pie and the Cadbury’s Cherry Ripe. Expansive mouthfeel. Rounded, with honey, pear and caramel.
Rich, lingering, floral and refreshing
Light, refreshing, floral and easy to drink. You want to keep coming back for more, especially if you enjoy whiskies on the lighter, sweeter side. Does it live up to the hype? It does, but I can imagine it is polarising, as the sakura cask finish, which softness the Hibiki, may not be to everyone’s taste. But then, what is?
In this video, I compare Hibiki Blossom Harmony to Hibiki Japanese Harmony AKA Hibiki NAS. Kanpai!
It’s great to see a new Hibiki from Suntory, hopefully marking their slow return to actually being able to meet the demand for their whisky, or at the very least, a reasonable stock level. Let’s hope the international market is able to enjoy some reasonably priced bottles of Hibiki Blossom Harmony soon!
Wait, who’s Kanpai Planet?
He’s Mac Salman. A Tokyo resident for 15 years, Mac has travelled to over 100 countries and all 7 continents. He is the Founder and Lead Guide ofMaction Planet, which specialises in Bespoke Japan Travel and Tokyo-inspired apparel. They run various food and drink tours, including sake, shochu and Japanese whisky. He is also the creator of Kanpai Planet, a YouTube channel demystifying, democratising and helping people discover the world of Japanese drinks, with active social media on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and LinkedIn.