Hibiki over the years have introduced several NAS bottlings as a replacement to some of their well established aged statements, largely owing to a reduction in existing reserves. The Master’s Select being one, was one of their earlier releases, introduced at Travel Retail sometime towards the end of 2015 just after their Harmony release.
Both the Harmony and the Harmony Master’s Select are packaged almost identically with subtle visual differences only being in the description and colours chosen with the packaging. Both bottles are adorned with 24 faces and the traditional washi paper labeling, reflecting on some of the east’s cultural and environmental characheristics. The former inspired by Japan’s 24 seasons and the latter an ode to the orient’s meticulous need to conform to discipline and their highly skilled craftsmanship. From what I understand, the use of Yamazaki Sherry Oak in the maturation is what sets the Master Select apart from the regular Harmony expression. Both otherwise being a blend of around ten grain and malt whiskies matured in a combination of American oak, Sherry and Mizunara oak from the Yamazaki, Hakushu and Chita distilleries.
ABV : 43%
Eye: Amontillado Sherry | Artificial colouring
Nose: Vanilla cream topped with cherries and marshmellows with a drizzle of caramel syrup and rose water; char from the wood is welcomed by fresh red apples and soft ripe plums. Honeycomb sweetness followed by winey nuances and sultanas are cut by a mild citrus zest from orange peels, followed by a cinnamon like spice.
Taste: Caramel cake and cream dressed with thickened strawberry syrup and a bounty of fruits – apples, stone fruits and poached oranges with a port wine sweetness lingering on. Subtle hints of white pepper are soon embraced by a warm welcoming warmth.
Finish: Mild hints of cardamon and white pepper with a pleasant caramel sweetness
The Master Select has a host of delicate characteristics, both floral and fruity that melodiously prance around the palate. And at the same time though viscous and light, it is still complex, carrying with it sufficient depth. I did however feel the bottling did have a rather short finish and then there is the price! Now I purchased this bottle late 2016 and the price has almost doubled since then, common with Japanese malts making them in no way value for money.
I am yet to try the standard Harmony bottling and it would be nice to see which of the two stands out and by how much, but that might need to wait for another day…
Preference: Neat, with a dash of water or how the Japanese prefer their whisky, as a highball.