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The Art of Japanese Whiskey

August 18, 2015

Whiskey with a cooler edge

A wee toddy, but not as we know it. Toby Blyth eschews the Scottish peaty firewater and introduces us to an all together lighter modern tipple, Harmony from Japanese distillers, Suntory.

By Toby Blyth

It is a truth universally acknowledged that the youth of today are badly behaved and spend far too much time taking selfies.

The recent launch of Suntory’s Hibiki Harmony blended whisky was a welcome chance to see that not all of those under 30 are as awful as the smartphone Narcissists.

All images by Creative Foundry

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A glamorous and rather good looking industry crowd turned out in Sydney’s Rocks to a warehouse with the obligatory exposed brick walls and raw trestle tables accompanied by artfully arranged wild flower and leaf arrangements – it certainly all presented a foreboding aspect of hipsterism.

However, maybe trends are changing but there was a marked absence of jobstopper neck tattoos and Edwardian adventurers moustaches too.

All images by Creative Foundry

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A generally well dressed crowd stood around actually talking to one another (and even appearing to be interested in what their interlocutors were saying), while some fashionable DJ arranged tracks in the background, remarkably enough almost too quiet to hear.

After a fairly long sampling of the new blend, with mineral water of all things, we moved on to highballs and then a perfectly arranged sampling of the underlying components of the blend. This was a very interesting and clever way to present the new blend because rather than simply telling the crowd that there was a new product on the market, and permitting everyone to get drunk (responsibly of course in our new era of nanny-statism), Suntory showed us how the whisky was made up and blended (without giving away any trade secrets of course).

All images by Creative Foundry

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It is a truism (if rather trite) that Japan has a long history of borrowing and perfecting. While that is at its heart debatable historically, Japan is very good at finding something and extracting its essence. That essence is then unveiled in a more refined, delicate and sophisticated way for the world to see.  Suntory’s ne Harmony blend is just such a thing.

Gone are the heavy pugilistic Scottish single malts, pungent with peat and burning in intensity. Picture instead a light and floral delicacy, paired perfectly with ice and soda, in a three dimensional and almost reconstructed molecular-level flavour, redolent of whiskey but somehow otherworldly. A taste of sun streaming through white flowers, and without the heartburn.

All images by Creative Foundry

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Having been a peat and single blend devotee, I am beginning to understand why the Japanese viewed the first Europeans setting foot as barbarians though. They may have been right.

Suntory Whiskey

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