Hibiki is a premium range of blended Japanese whiskies from the House of Suntory. Hibiki means 'harmony' in Japanese and was created to be an embodiment of Japanese culture and whisky making skill. From its 24-sided decanter style bottle, which symbolises the 24 seasons in the Japanese calendar, to the meticulous quality of the liquid, Hibiki oozes class and sophistication. It is no surprise that it is Japan's most highly awarded whisky brand.
The Hibiki range of whiskies are created to have an elegant style with a gentle sweetness and depth of character. This is achieved through the marriage of single malt and single grain whiskies, some of which are of significant age. These different components have been matured a collection of casks ranging from the traditional ex-bourbon and ex-sherry casks to the more unorthodox ex-umeshu, a type of Japanese plum brandy, barrels. The current core range consists of Hibiki Japanese Harmony, Japanese Harmony Master's Select, 17 years old, 21 years old and 30 years old.
Hibiki is created in the traditional way for a blend. Each expression is a marriage of single malt and single grain whiskies. These are produced at Beam Suntory's three distilleries - Hakushu and Yamazaki for the single malts and Chita for single grain. Each distillery produces different styles and variants of their whisky type. This creates a wide range of aroma and flavour profiles for the blending team to work with. The Chief Blender for Hibiki (and the Beam Suntory's single malt and single grain brands) is Shinji Fukuyo.
Hibiki was launched in 1989 to celebrate the 90th anniversary of the Suntory company. This was founded in 1899 by Japanese whisky pioneer Shinjiro Torii. His empire began with a wine importing business and shop in Osaka, and included building Japan's first ever whisky distillery - Yamazaki. Production began there in 1923 on the outskirts of Osaka.
Development of Hibiki started in 1987 when it was decided to add a blended whisky to Suntory's portfolio. Keizo Saji, the Master Blender at Suntory at the time, and Koichi Inatomi, the Chief Blender, sampled thousands of casks to determine the final recipe. After two years they settled on a blend of 30 single malt and single grain whiskies. The first two expressions available carried age statements of 17 and 21 years old.
These were joined by the 30 years old in 1997 and then a 12 years old in 2009. The 12 years old has since been discontinued. In 2014, Suntory became part of the larger Beam Suntory group. Japanese whisky had become so popular and grown so rapidly that they quickly identified a problem. Stocks of whiskies with significant age were dwindling to critical levels. Hence, the no age statement Japanese Harmony was introduced in 2015. It used 10 single malts and single grains with some at much younger ages than previously used.
The first time that Hibiki came to the attention of a wider audience was in 2003 thanks to the movie Lost in Translation. In the movie, Bob Harris, played by Bill Murray, is in Tokyo to film a series of 'Suntory Time' commercials. The whisky featured is Hibiki 17 years old.