Bartender’s choice: The story of the Hibiki

In the past two columns I have introduced cocktails made with Yamazaki and Hakushu both of which are excellent whiskies. Another excellent Japanese whisky at a similar or higher level is the Hibiki. Suntory introduced it in 1989, aiming to present the best blended whisky there is on the market, and I think most people would agree that Suntory managed to do that. However, there is one reason behind Hibiki’s introduction that most people do not know about.

The truth is that the Hibiki was blended according to the wishes of bartenders across Japan, who felt that there was a lack of excellent Japanese blended whisky on the market. Suntory’s chief blender, Seiichi Koshimizu, followed their suggestion on what sort of taste this perfectly blended whisky should have, and the Hibiki was born.

The Hibiki is popular all over the world; however, coming up with it proved to be a challenge for Koshimizu. The reason? The bartenders wanted a whisky perfect for making cocktails.

Bartenders had been complaining that that it was difficult to make cocktails with the Yamazaki and the Hakushu, and many thought that a high-quality whisky optimized for cocktails was needed on the market. Koshimizu took note of this and made it his aim to produce high-quality whisky that would be easier to blend than the Yamazaki and the Hakushu. As a result, the Hibiki 12 Year Old was born in 2009. This blend is excellent for drinking straight or with water, but for bartenders, the main attraction is that it’s perfect for mixing.

A cocktail made using the Hibiki 12 Year Old won best cocktail at the Suntory Cocktail Awards in 2010. The bartender’s name was Takahumi Kobayashi and his cocktail was called Sui-kyou-an, the name being a reference to whats in the cocktail.

The recipe for this award-winning cocktail:

30 ml Suntory Midori (melon liqueur, essentially consist of melon juice mixed with sugar and a little vodka, can be made at home.)

15 ml Hibiki 12 Year Old

9 ml Lejay Crème d’Abricot

7–8ml lime juice

Add ingredients to glass and shake.

This is the cocktail Japanese bartenders and Seiichi Koshimizu, Suntory’s chief blender, have worked hard to make possible. What are you waiting for? Give it a try!