The 40th Commemorative NBA Cocktail Competition, the follow-up of the Kansai heat, took place on June 2, at Grand Cube Osaka. This event is the most significant for the Nippon Bartenders Association as it’s an all-in-all national event with bar tenders from all over Japan competing against one another to see who will stand out and be crowned No.1. Among the 40 bartenders, Matsuo Kazuma from Tokyo’s Little Malt Bar, took the national title, which is arguably a fair effort given the amount of competitors.
Just like any regional event, an abundance of brands/makers were offering a smorgasbord of spirits and whisky. Although I was there on the day helping out, naturally my attention was divided between the only two Japanese brands showcasing their line-up: Hombo Shuzo - Mars, and Nikka (Asahi). There really is not a lot to report about unfortunately as both makers were promoting products most of us are already familiar with or have read about in past posts from Whisky Live 2013.
What I can do, however, is once again congratulate the good folk at the Mars distillery for their new/recent editions, which again, I was thankfully given the opportunity to try. There is no doubt about the praise the 24yo “Komagatake” is getting, which was matured in ex-bourbon casks - a total of four in fact, which were than vatted at 58% ABV. Although not officially available to taste on the day the good folk were allowing certain people the pleasure to yet again experience it. Exquisite whisky, and fair to say equally so is the 22yo “Komagatake” that is a vatting of two American White Oak casks. The former, however, according to various people I chatted with, is extremely limited in Kansai - a dozen or so, with at least three of those being snapped up before you could even pronounce “Komagatake”.
I’m a big fan of the Iwai Wine Cask finish - a traditional blended whisky that was finished roughly for a year in ex-red wine casks. This is just as equally limited, not just in terms the outturn (2,495), but of the sales system where it has generally been allocated to certain smaller retailers/ limited dealers - and mainly in the Kanto region. Of course those with a desire to try this exceptionally tasty blend at an extremely affordable price can do so with a bit of effort trawling the net. It appears that the original release of the Iwai Tradition (in the square 720ml bottle) will gradually fade out due to the introduction of the new bottle format of the standard Iwai Tradition, that and there is not a lot of stock remaining, so it might pay for fans to secure one or two bottles.
Nikka brought their full line-up to the event, as they often do, including their delicious Nikka Coffey Grain whisky. This time around I was a bit selective and not greedy by trying only a few expressions - focusing on Miyagikyo OB’s. The Taketsuru 25yo seemed to be a hit on the day, the one bottle on offer for tasting was completely consumed by early afternoon - quite obvious given the fact it is delicious and wasn’t accompanied with a charge.
On the Scotch front, briefly, not a lot of things (new expressions) to write home about, mind you I was not devoting a lot of time to all the booths as I should have. However, attendees on the day, who asked the MHD Diageo boys nicely got to experience something in a clean skin bottle. That nectar was the up and coming new Ardbeg - Ardbog that spent a bit of time in Manzanilla sherry casks. Lovely stuff! For more info take a look here.