Weekend Sip: Meet a Japanese whisky with hints of white chocolate

The bottle: Hibiki Japanese Harmony, $64.99

The back story: We’ve long moved past the days when drinking whisky meant drinking either Scotch or classic American bourbon. Now, smart sippers are looking for libations from a range of places. In particular, they have come to embrace Japanese whisky.

Consider: Suntory STBFY, +0.36%  , a dominant player in that country’s whisky market, has seen its U.S. sales grow by 174% from 2014 to 2017, according to market researcher Nielsen. Demand is so strong that some Suntory whiskies, particularly prized expressions that have been aged for several years, have become all but impossible to find.

Which brings us to Hibiki Japanese Harmony. It is a relatively new product to the Suntory line, introduced in late 2015. It has no age statement — rather, it is a blend of at least 10 whiskies of different ages (the oldest is approximately 20 years). That gives Suntory some flexibility in producing Hibiki Harmony — in other words, the company is not dependent on a single group of barrels to release the whisky and can thus keep the flow going to meet surging demand for Japanese booze.

What we think about it: We’ve been fans of Suntory’s whiskies ever since we first tasted them about a decade ago — and Hibiki Harmony is no exception. As with most Japanese whisky, it is quite similar to Scotch — in this case, a blended Scotch. But there is often a subtleness and refinement that takes it to another level. Hibiki Harmony has a gentle sweetness that’s hard to resist. The Suntory team says you should pick up notes of candied orange peel and white chocolate.

How to enjoy it: This is a versatile whisky, Suntory says, that can be had neat (our preference) or on the rocks. Like other blended whiskies, it’s also a good choice for cocktails. If you want to go the full Japanese route, Suntory suggests enjoying it with a hand-carved ice ball — presuming you’re up to speed with your ice-carving skills, that is.

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