The founding house of Japanese whisky recently hosted an immersive 8k multi-sensory experience to showcase Hibiki Blossom Harmony, inspired by the 24 small seasons of Japan. We were honoured to catch up with Chief Blender Shinji Fukuyo to talk about House of Suntory and all things Hibiki.
How did it all start?
House of Suntory began in 1923 and has since been notorious as the pioneer of Japanese Whisky. Our Founder, Shinjiro Torii, built Japan’s first malt whisky distillery in Yamazaki with a vision to not only blend imported liqueurs, but to develop quintessentially Japanese spirits for Japanese people.
The Suntory legacy continued with Torii’s son and Suntory’s second Master Blender, Keizo Saji. They both continued to establish distilleries, including the Hakushu Distillery. As the generations of Suntory’s master blenders carry on, our Suntory Whisky remains committed to heritage and innovation.
Tell us about the new Hibiki expression and what makes this liquid special?
In Japan, the Sakura Blossom season has always been an occasion for celebration, where people gather around the beautiful flowering Sakura trees that inspire the Japanese to appreciate life as it blooms. Our Hibiki Blossom Harmony captures this joyful spirit by blending a rare selection of whiskies finished in Sakura wood casks with diverse matured malt and grain whiskies to create this particular Hibiki – perfect to enjoy with someone special, someone who makes you blossom.
I have been mesmerised by the Sakura cask for the last five years due to its symbolism, but also because of its distinctive, subtly floral and spicy aroma and flavour notes. There have been many experiments with malt and grain whisky components, and we found that there was a special alchemy between the grain whiskies and the Sakura cask. It is this special relationship – this harmony – that inspired me to create this blend.
What do you do at home to train your nose, palate and senses to be the best they can be?
I avoid eating foods with a strong smell such as garlic during the weekdays and Sunday night, while also maintaining my physical conditions by sticking to my regular routine every day and staying healthy.
Why should people invest in whisky instead of art?
Whisky’s richness is developed throughout the long maturation period resulting in a deep and complex flavour. It is no other than the time devoted to it that makes whisky so special, however, I do prefer people actually tasting it rather than just seeing it as an item of investment.
The creation of this liquid has been a special process. Can you tell us what it actually tastes like?
As a limited edition, I wanted our Hibiki aficionados to enjoy a Hibiki they had never experienced before – something unexpected, something surprising. This is a Hibiki that celebrates a particular moment in your life, a harmony that blossoms.
The liquid has a smooth, expanding fragrance. It begins with an enticing floral bouquet, followed by the signature Hibiki depth and complexity of honey, candied orange peel, jasmine and a chocolatey decadence. The finish leaves a long-lasting rich and brilliant aftertaste, featuring surprising bittersweet spicy notes.
What food do you think matches with Hibiki Blossom Harmony?
The smoothness and rich aftertaste of this whisky matches with any kind of food.
The highball is the drink of the future. What makes a great highball?
Clear ice made from purified water, crisp soda that has sufficient gas pressure, and a whisky suited for a highball. Take them all and carefully craft it to your preferred ratio and garnish with a lemon or orange as you like – you can’t go wrong.
How would you want us to taste this new expression at home?
Hibiki Blossom Harmony is renowned for its enticing aroma , please take your time and enjoy the scents before drinking, while you savour it, and also during the aftertaste.
Apart from whisky, what do you like to drink at home?
I drink wine, Japanese sake, beer, and also sometimes tequila and shochu.
What is next for you and House of Suntory?
There are many things in the pipeline for us which is very exciting. There is nothing other than my deepest gratitude for the people who have supported us. Locals working in our distilleries, manufacturers and subcontractors that provide us raw materials, equipment, and packaging, wholesalers, retailers, restaurants and bartenders and of course consumers who have ever tasted our Suntory whisky and the pioneers who have paved the way of whisky making – I cannot express how grateful I am for everybody.
To discover more, visit: whisky.suntory.com
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All imagery courtesy of House of Suntory / Shinji Fukuyo.