Hibiki is one of the most well-known and expensive Japanese blended whiskies. Spirit produced at Yamazaki, Hakushu and Chita distilleries – all owned by Suntory – contribute to the distinctive profile.
The blended whisky was launched in 1989 to commemorate Suntory’s 90th anniversary. In the years that have followed, Hibiki has become a highly sought-after and universally known whisky, in no small part thanks to its starring turn in Lost in Translation.
Due to shortages harking back to a downturn in production in the 1980s, Suntory – like many others – has discontinued some of Hibiki’s most famous age statements. Hibiki 12 and Hibiki 17 – the Bill Murray-endorsed whisky in the 2003 film – have both befallen the same fate. It is hoped supply will once again meet demand by 2025. In the interim, a slew of no age statement whiskies has been released, including the Hibiki Japanese Harmony,
Three distilleries contribute to the Hibiki blend: Yamazaki, the first whisky distillery in Japan, built in 1923; Chita, built in 1972; and Hakushu, which was founded on the 50th anniversary of Japanese whisky-making, in 1973.
Shinjiro Torii, who founded the Yamazaki distillery, is an intriguing figure and his relationship with Masataka Taketsuru (who later founded Suntory’s fierce rival Nikka) is the stuff of legend. The two men initially joined forces with a singular goal of creating a Japanese whisky influenced by Scottish tradition. Sadly, the duo did not see eye to eye and parted ways after the first ever Japanese whisky, Suntory Shirofuda, was universally panned when it was launched in 1929. Suntory’s next whisky, Kakubin, released in 1937, was infinitely more successful.
Torii’s son, Keizo Saji, took over the family business when Shinjiro died in 1962. Keizo built the Chita distillery – on the shores of the Chita Peninsula – and Hakushu, in the Japanese Southern Alps.
The House of Suntory is currently owned by Beam Suntory, the third largest spirits company in the world. Shinjiro Torii’s grandson, Shingo Torii, sits on the board of directors.