Recently the Malt Nuts gathered to sip on single malts and single grains as Suntory’s Johnny The Scot walked us through the component parts of the Hibiki Harmony and the Toki. Whiskies we’ve all had plenty of, but none of us have ever had the opportunity to taste the individual pieces of what goes into creating the blends.
In typical Malt Nuts fashion, the bottles were blinded and went round by round doing a tasting with a Q&A and a reveal at the end of each round. Which, in this scenario, I really enjoyed doing because it gave a finality to each round before we moved onto the next. It would have been tough to go back in this scenario and talk about Toki after we drank Yama 18.
Malt Nuts Suntory Deconstruction Tasting
- Suntory Hibiki Harmony Deconstruction
- Suntory Toki Deconstruction
- Suntory “standard releases” flight
Since the component parts aren’t available in the general market I didn’t score them and instead scored the market only the market release. However, as always, I’ve included my notes from the night as I was tasting through everything. I think that makes sense in this format vs our traditional Malt Nuts tastings where we only taste things that have been released to the general public.
Suntory Hibiki Harmony Deconstruction
1A: Suntory Chita
- Nose: Mineral, vanilla, char, fruit, grain, spirit.
- Palate: Spirit, vanilla, banana, grain, dried fruit.
- Finish: Short -> Grain, spirit, toffee and char.
- Overall: If this isn’t a grain whisky I’ll be shocked. It’s not terrible, but it’s not something I’d want to drink regularly. (It turned out to be a grain… Chita is a grain whisky)
1B: Suntory Yamazaki – All American Casks (ex-bourbon, Hogshead, Puncheon, Virgin Oak)
- Nose: Orchard fruit, malt, cocoa, banana, Twizzlers and some ash.
- Palate: Farmy malt, spice, ash, orchard fruit, ash and dried fruit.
- Finish: Medium -> Farmy malt, ash spice.
- Overall: Decent malty delivery, a bit ashy, but far from terrible.
1C: Suntory Yamazaki Sherry
- Nose: Sherry, blackberry, cinnamon, malt, vermouth, leather, ash.
- Palate: Sherry, blackberry, cinnamon, malt, ash, cocoa and smoke.
- Finish: Long -> Sherry, blackberry, blueberry, malt and ash.
- Overall: Holy crap this is good. Complex char, fruits and sweets. Awesome, simply amazing and if I were scoring would be in that A-/A range… I want my own barrel of this. It was around 20 years.
1D: Suntory Yamazaki Mizunara
- Nose: Apples, butter, malt, graham, toffee, menthol, nuts.
- Palate: Apple, butter, malt, graham, spice, menthol, nuts and oil.
- Finish: Long -> Malt, apple, spice and menthol.
- Overall: Big fun whisky, this is interesting and has a nice velvety texture. I could drink this anyday. Around 17 years old, it was quite the whisky.
1E: Suntory Hakashu Heavily Peated
- Nose: Peat, butter, malt, saline, spice, mineral and dried fruit.
- Palate: Peat, butter, saline, malt, spice, mineral, dried fruit and oil.
- Finish: Long -> Peat, saline, toffee and honey.
- Overall: Sweet n’ peat but with fruit instead of sherry. Crisp and elegant it’s tasty and I’m digging it.
1F: Suntory Hibiki Harmony Master’s Select
- Nose: Fruit, malt, saline, mineral, nutmeg, nuts, simple syrup
- Palate: Fruit, malt, saline, mineral, nutmeg, nuts, simple syrup and some bubblegum.
- Finish: Medium -> Fruit, malt, mineral and spice.
- Overall: B (83-86) Good, but not amazing. It’s solid and balanced, but I like most of the components more than the mix.
Round One – Suntory Hibiki Harmony Deconstruction – Comments: Johnny knows we’ve all had the standard Harmony more times than we can count and was gracious enough to bring us the travel retail Master’s Select, which you can clearly see in the photo.
This was a deeply interesting dissection of the blend and the whole is definitely more interesting than some of its parts. Though some of the parts, like the 20-year-old Sherry and 17-year-old Mizunara Yamazaki, surpassed the sum. I truly wish we could do this for more blends. This is endlessly fascinating.
Suntory Toki Deconstruction
2A: Suntory Hakashu Lightly Peated
- Nose: Marshmallow, coconut, toffee, banana foster and fruit and smoke.
- Palate: Marshmallow, coconut, toffee, banana foster, vanilla and smoke.
- Finish: Short -> Marshmallow, fruit and smoke
- Overall: Hmm, not a huge fan of this one. I like my Hakashu with more smoke in it.
2B: Suntory Chita
- Nose: Spice, saline, fish oil, fruit, grain and toffee.
- Palate: Spice, banana, vanilla, grain, fruit and toffee.
- Finish: Short -> Banana, nuts and grain.
- Overall: Crazy amount of banana and toffee in this grain.
2C: Suntory Yamazaki Sherry
- Nose: Sherry, spice, dark fruit, wine, oily nuts and graham.
- Palate: Wine, spice, cinnamon, nuts, fruit and sherry.
- Finish: Medium -> Wine, spice and menthol.
- Overall: Not as complex as the Yama 20 sherry, but this is good, I’d like to have more of this one!
2D: Chita Travel Retail
- Nose: Butterscotch, grain, banana, toffee, coconut and candy corn.
- Palate: Banana, brown sugar, honey, coconut, butter, grain and waxy candy.
- Finish: Medium -> Banana, grain and brown sugar.
- Overall: B- (80-82) This contains three of the cask types Suntory uses and for a grain whisky it’s pretty good. Combo of ex-Sherry, ex-Bourbon, ex-Bordeux.
Round Two – Suntory Toki Deconstruction – Comments: Like with the Harmony Johnny knew we were seasoned drinkers and had all experienced the Toki on many occasions so again he surprised us with a travel retail treat (2D).
To be 100% honest I’m not a fan of the Toki and tasting all of the components it makes sense I wouldn’t care for the sum since non of the parts really jumped out at me. The Yama sherry was the most interesting piece, but even that didn’t light a fire under me like some of the Hibiki pieces did… or like that utterly brilliant Hakashu 18 we started the night out with did.
Suntory “standard releases” flight
3A: Suntory Reserve 43%
- Nose: Spice, sherry, malt, vanilla, grain and plummy dark fruit.
- Palate: Grain, spice, malt, vanilla and plummy dark fruit.
- Finish: Medium -> Spice, malt and toffee.
- Overall: B (83-86) Ok, innoffensive and pleasant but not crazy about it.
3B: Suntory Whisky 40% (70s/80s)
- Nose: Buttery, nutty, oily, cinnamon, toffee, ash and frosting sweetness.
- Palate: Buttery, nutty, oily, cinnamon, toffee, ash and frosting sweetness.
- Finish: Medium -> Caramel, toffee and grain.
- Overall: B (83-86) Sweet and ashy but not balanced.
3C: Suntory Reserve 43% (older than 3A)
- Nose: Fruit, peat, toffee, saline, butterscotch.
- Palate: Fruit, peat, toffee, saline, butterscotch.
- Finish: Medium -> Fruit and butterscotch.
- Overall: B (83-86) Sweet and odd, but done in a way that I’d like to explore it more… at room temp.
3D: Yamazaki 18 (43%)
- Nose: Sherry, oily spice, fruit cake, cocoa, malt and char.
- Palate: Sherry, oily spice, fruit cake, cocoa, malt and char.
- Finish: Long -> Sherry, cocoa, nuts and ash.
- Overall: B+ (87-89) Ok I really like this one. Maybe at room temp it could be an A-, really digging the complexity of this one.
3E: Suntory Hibiki 12 Years: 43%
- Nose: Spice, citrus, butterscotch, smoke, vanilla and grain.
- Palate: Caramel, fruit, smoke, spice, grain and nuts.
- Finish: Medium -> Spice, char, smoke and fruit.
- Overall: B+ (87-89) Elegant and fun this is definitely a blend but it’s quite nice.
3F: Suntory Hibiki 17 Years: 43%
- Nose: Toffee, cinnamon oil, fruit, caramel, dark fruit, coffee, smoke and nuts.
- Palate: Fruit, grain, dark fruit, citrus, spice, brulee, smoke and ash.
- Finish: Medium -> Citrus, malt, fruit and toffee.
- Overall: B+ (87-89) I like this one a bit more than I like 3E, but not enough to get to the next level. Maybe if it was warmer?
Round Three – Suntory “standard releases” flight – Comments: Several of these are insanely hard to find / prohibitively expensive to get these days so it was a lot of fun to get to try them. I kept some of the components in my glass so after the reveal I could go back and try the Chita grain or the peated Hakashu or the sherried Yamazaki next to some of the standards to compare and contrast pieces vs releases and again, it was incredibly interesting.
My biggest takeaway from this Malt Nuts Suntory Deconstruction Tasting is that I wish I had been able to dig deeper into Japanese whisky before it became prohibitively expensive and age-statements all but disappeared. It’s an interesting area of whisky and there’s so much more to discover in this category that I probably won’t ever be able to experience, but such is life.
I’m immensely grateful to Barry, Johnny, Deborah, Johnny and Suntory for making this all come together, it was easily one of the most interesting and educational experiences I’ve had in the world of whisky. If you ever get the opportunity to do something like this jump on it immediately, you won’t regret it.
Till next time, cheers!