Hibiki Japanese Harmony “Master’s Select” 43%

My early introduction to Hibiki was with its enjoyable 12 year blend years ago and then its even more delightful 17 year sibling. However the craze for Japanese whiskies in recent years has meant pressures on stock and, like many other companies, Suntory is no exception to embracing the NAS trend rather than be restricted to have a year statement linked to the youngest whisky found in the bottle.

Japanese Harmony “Master’s Select” is a recent Hibiki offering found in most Duty Free shops around the world… and just so happens to be the whisky that kicked-off our regular group‘s November tasting trio!

Hibiki Japanese Harmony

As our normal practice, we sampled blind then revealed the whisky…

Hibiki Japanese Harmony NAS 43%

  • Colour – Amber
  • Nose – That new bottle ‘bang!’ with jackfruit, over-ripe fruit, then a little sour, slightly medicinal, morphing into sweet basil, a little Vicks vapour rub, very sweet, fresh, even a whiff of orange marmalade and eucalyptus
  • Palate – Dry, bitter, a bit ‘hard’ with light leather, quite ‘wintery’, a bit oaky, nutty – more along the lines of a betel nut with that astringent after taste, with a larger sip becomes quite spicy
  • Finish – There but relatively non-descript, nothing exceptional
  • Water – Without even adding, it feels like was already opened with a few drops of water, those that did found it spicier but didn’t add anything specific
  • Speculation – Sense that it is between 40 – 43%, feel of being a bit ‘junior’, could the colour have a little caramel?

The unveiling – the new Hibiki NAS blend with Yamazaki sherry cask, Hakushu and Chita.

And our overall thoughts? Quite straight, linear, no complexity, yet equally a ’no complaints’ kind of whisky! An entirely pleasant dram and when in the mood to simply sip, enjoy while listening to say.. classical music… this would do the trick!

Here’s what the Masters of Malt folks have to say about the whisky:

Hibiki Japanese Harmony is made with malt whiskies from the Yamazaki and Hakushu distilleries, as well as grain whisky from the Chita distillery. The whiskies are drawn from 5 different types of cask, including American white oak casks, Sherry casks and Mizunara oak casks. The blend itself was crafted by the Suntory Whisky blending team, led by Master Blender Shingo Torii. An elegant expression, with wafts of honey, orange, a herbaceous touch or two and light oak.
The other whiskies sampled in our November session included:

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Party whisky – Amrut’s MaQintosh

While there are so many fabulous single malts out there, what about those sociable evenings where folks prefer quantity over quality?

The usual suspects in Mumbai for around Rs 1,000 are Blender’s Pride, Antiquity Blue, etc. However one evening, supplies were dwindling and the local liquor store didn’t have any of these.

That’s when my friendly neighbourhood ‘wine’ shop suggested MaQintosh.

Thanks to Amrut‘s marketing efforts (with a nod to Jim Murray‘s Whisky Bible review), most have now heard of this Indian international contender in the single malt category.

However few outside of India’s local booze shops would know of MaQintosh. Touted as a ‘Premium’ whisky, just what the heck?

  • Well… it immediately comes across as fake Scottish with appalling spelling… I mean after all isn’t ‘u’ after ‘q’??
  • It declares boldly that it is ‘genuinely’ made from Scottish and Indian malts… (as opposed to…?)
  • It is also ‘aged’ and ‘married’ in imported Oak barrels
  • Admits uses ‘permitted‘ caramel
  • Strength 42.8% and NAS
  • Price Rs 900 in Mumbai (That’s $15 for you folks who don’t live in India!)
MaQintosh (Whisky Lady)

MaQintosh (Whisky Lady)

And tasting notes of the whisky?

  • Nose – Toffee sweet
  • Palate – Mildly oaky, apples, pleasant but not memorable
  • Finish – Warm burn

Yeah, I know… not exactly much, eh?

But here is the deal… If you compare it with your average cheap – oops! I mean ‘premium‘ Indian whisky – it fares better. Far better.

As most folks I know aren’t familiar with MaQintosh, initially they would still reach for the usual suspects. Several parties later, I couldn’t quite seem to convince anyone to polish off the bottle.

But the thing is… that started to change. It began to make an appearance in friends homes as more and more folks began to realise they can get a certain level of taste and enjoyability in an affordable package. Just the other day, at the local Bandra gymkhana, talk turned to “Have you tried MaQintosh?”

Me? I’m still on the quality over quantity side of the equation whereas party whisky should be the opposite.

But that’s just slightly snobby me. Don’t let me stop you!

Related posts:

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Bailie Nicole Jarvie (BNJ) NAS 40%

Our January 2015 Mumbai’s whisky tasting club‘s session was hosted by our resident expert and the first whisky sampled was the Scottish blend Bailie Nicole Jarvie – better known as BNJ.

As per our usual approach, we first blind tasted the whisky and then revealed it to then resample and discuss further.

Bailie Nicole Jarvie (BNJ) NAS 40 %

  • 20150115-BNJColour – Pale
  • Nose – Very light, honey, initially had more the scent of fruit than anything specific, then a hint of banana emerged, and vanilla. Post the initial tasting as it settled further to a delightful baked apple pie!
  • Palate – No palate complexity, had a sense of being watered down, slightly bitter and frankly a let down
  • Finish – Not much… if you were polite, you would call it delicate

Before revealing the whisky, we were challenged to identify what it reminded us of – it seemed most like a Glenmorangie – recalling the Nectar D’Or. The unveiling:

  • Scottish blend from Glenmorangie – bravo to our identifying prowess!
  • Our host shared it has been an ‘original’ blended malt long before vatted malt Monkey Shoulder came into picture, a ‘cult’ amongst Scottish whisky drinkers
  • Personally I love the packaging! A pity the whisky wasn’t more interesting…

We did let it breath further and revisited a few times during the course of the evening to see if anything new emerged. Other than the baked apple pie in the nose surfacing, it remained consistently light, pleasant and unremarkable.

Curious, I found out a little bit more information:

  • Blend of old scotch whisky from Lowland, Highland and Island whiskies – according to the bottle notes, all over 8 years
  • While boasts of having the “highest malt content of any blended Scotch Whisky” it seems that it is 60% single malt / 40% grain whisky
  • Blended by Glenmorangie and named after the Walter Scott novel – Rob Roy
  • Considered largely unknown outside of Scotland, was around in 1921 and quite popular in the early 20th century
  • Was re-launched in 1994 in the current avatar shown here

Our final conclusion? It is a mild-mannered whisky that could prompt more conversation than the Glenmorangie 10 year but in that same category. In other words… pleasant but nothing spectacular.

Other whiskies in our January tasting session:

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