I'm looking at an empty 50ml. Hibiki 17 right now and I tried the Hibiki 12 at the distillery. Both good, I like the 12 better.
The Nikka Pure Malts were everywhere, but I've yet to try any of them, which seems ridiculous, but I did just open a bottle of distillery release Hakushu the other day which looks very reminiscent of the Nikka's.
If you're in Nagaoka, Takayanagi is right next door to you, and if I remember rightly it's famous for it's paper, hot springs and nighttime fox festival.
Maybe I'll try to make a trip to Nagaoka this fall and bring some of the Nikka's (not red) with me.