Suntory is the king of Asian distillers, but it chose a foreign market for the world premier of its latest whisky.
Its Hibiki 12 Year Old premium blended whisky debuted today in London.
The Hibiki premium blended range has earned 15 gold medals and trophies in less than five years, including the title of "The World’s Best Blended Whisky" from its Hibiki 30 Year Old in both 2007 and 2008.
The distiller says London was chosen "due to the growing interest and demand for Suntory premium whiskies in the U.K. and to further support the Hibiki brand positioning on the world stage, by introducing it to whisky connoisseurs in an international capital."
The new expression was aged in Japanese plum liqueur "Umeshu" casks, which sweeten the liquor, made from a blend of malt and grain whiskies. It is filtered through bamboo charcoal and is bottled at 43% ABV (86 proof).
Suntory also produces the Hibiki in 17-, 21- and 30-year-old expressions.
Seiichi Koshimizu, Suntory’s chief blender and the first Japanese representative to be appointed a judge at the International Spirits Challenge, says, “Our goal was to create a uniquely Japanese whisky that is mellower and smoother than any other premium 12-year-old whisky in the world.
“Hibiki is a niche brand, and we understand that not many people can afford to buy such premium whiskies. By adding Hibiki 12 year-old to the range we seek to make the brand more affordable to whisky enthusiasts and to increase awareness of the marvellous flavors of Japanese whisky.”
The whisky is packaged in a 24-facet decanter inspired by the original 24 seasons in the Japanese year. It is selling in the U.K. at a suggested retail price of £39.99 to £42.99 a bottle, which translates to $60 to $65 US. The company has not announced when the new expression will be available in the American market.
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