Friday, April 25, 2014
Suntory Hibiki, 17 years old.
Most of us, when we think of whisky - that’s whisky without the “e” - we think of Scotland. That’s as it should be: If you want your whiskey with an “e,” you have to go to Ireland... or across the pond to America, where bourbon and rye reign supreme. Fine creatures all, but not at all the same as the wonderful Water of Life the Scots brew with their smoke and peat.
And then you have Japan, a country with a serious culinary tradition that is not well understood by most Westerners, who pretty much stop at the California roll. Japan, a country in which a single melon, offered at the peak of ripeness and aesthetic perfection, can command well over US$100. Japan, a country that is adept at taking Western ideas and technologies and putting their own unique spin on them. (The fabled Japanese Game Show is but one example.)
You can find no-e whisky in Japan, and I am here to tell you, it can be Mighty Fine.
You’re looking at the remnants of a bottle I purchased at Narita Airport six years ago when I made a pilgrimage to the Land of the Rising Sony with Elder Daughter. After having consumed most of it, I had tucked it into a hidden recess in my Lacquer Liquor Locker, where it remained until just a couple of days ago.
This particular whisky is a blended malt - a combination of several single malts but without neutral spirits. It is extraordinary, smooth with notes of toffee, vanilla, and caramel. Very much like a good single malt Scotch, but subtly, inscrutably different.
A little research has established that to replace this bottle, I would have to spend something on the order of $180 today... well above what I paid for it in Tokyo six years ago. A good investment, sez I.