Monday, December 26, 2011

Stocking Your Home Bar with Affordable Japanese Whiskies: 2011

Adding Japanese whisky to your home bar or collection dose not have to be pricey. There are many great affordable Japanese whiskies available (providing you are residing in Japan) that wont burn a hole in your pocket. You can get a variety of quality Japanese whiskies including single malts, pure malts, and blended whisky to delight in for under 10,000 yen ($126/98 Euros). Whiskies R Us suggests considering (in view of quantity to fill up your shelves) the following inexpensive drams to enjoy if you are on a budget. However, if you’re looking for quality more so than quantity and money isn’t an issue the options are endless. What would you buy taking into account quantity with the mentioned budget?

1)    Mars 3&7 Blend – Shinshu Hombo 720ml (1200 yen)

2)    Yoichi NAS Single Malt – Nikka 500ml (1,400 yen)*

3)    Suntory Royal NAS Blend – Suntory 660ml (2,290 yen)*

4)   Akashi Domestic Blend (containing spirit) - Eigashima 500ml (1,050 yen)

5)    Black Pure Malt – Nikka 500ml (1,580 yen)

6)    Miyagikyo NAS Single Malt – Nikka 500ml (1,400 yen)*

7)    Taketsuru 12 YO Blend – Nikka 180ml (1,000 yen)

* Currently on special at participating supermarkets.
(Prices are approximate and will change depending on area and where purchased).

Monday, December 19, 2011

Isetan Mitsukoshi - JR Osaka

Although the debut of the new Isetan Mitsukoshi department store at JR Osaka station was some time ago, the commodity of the store, and it is an impressive one by all means, has not worn off. Months after the opening of this grand store, shoppers still flock to it as if it opened yesterday. The ritzy architecture and design of the building that is embedded in the station is quite attractive, but the major attraction is the quality and variety of products the department store stocks, in particular Japanese whisky.

Umeda, Osaka is home to three other department stores within a close proximity which also stock a variety of whisky, surprisingly Scotch mainly, but none of these department stores stand out as much as Isetan. Isetan is in fact quite the opposite, very little Scotch is stocked, and the emphasis is on top quality Japanese whisky that I’m sure all readers of Whiskies R Us will be appreciative of. This is certainly good news and suggests that there is a demand for Japanese whisky amongst local shoppers, that or Isetan have chosen the premium selection specially for foreign clientele.

Being a luxurious department store and stocking hi-end products, whiskies are priced accordingly. So if you were in the market for budget Japanese whiskies it may pay to consider alternatives, but on the other hand if you were in the market for something special and prepared to splash out a bit, then this is the place to go. Either way this store is a must visit regardless. On my visit over the weekend I came across two malt expressions from Ichiro that I have never seen before, enquiring about the selection staff proudly informed me that they stock exclusive bottlings limited to Isetan that are not available elsewhere. Unfortunately I cannot say whether this is factual but what I can say is that some of the expressions I saw when I was there I have never seen before. There is no particular given name for the alcohol shop but head down to basement two and head to the wine and alcohol section in the far right back corner.

Update: December 19, Brian (aka Dramtastic - Nonjatta reviewer) has kindly made me aware within minutes of posting that both of the malts distilled and blended by Akuto-san in the photo above can be purchased at the Takashimaya department store in Tokyo. I have taken a look in the Shinsaibashi (Osaka) Takashimya store a while back (which I will posting soon about) but unfortunately didn't see them. Although the staff at Isetan suggested that the bottles were exclusive to the department store, it appears that they were of the belief the bottlings are exclusive. Thanks Brian.

06 - 6457 - 1111

〒530-8558 3-1-3, Umeda, Kita-ku, Osaka-shi

Business hours
10:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m

Monday, December 12, 2011

Ji-whisky at Pardon

The pleasurable, engulfing smells of the retailer Pardon: mixed varieties of cardboard boxes, fresh wooden wine crates, sacks, barrels, rice, straw, raw materials, dried food produce and fruity white spirit. These are the welcoming smells one gets when entering the shop in Nishi-ku, Kobe. The description may not sound that appealing and maybe hard to imagine the mixture of these smells being pleasant, but in actual fact, well for me anyway, the natural aromas this shop puts out are enticing.

Over the weekend I was fortunate enough to be in the neighborhood again and dropped in. Since my last visit I learned that they have added a few more domestic whiskies to their lineup, while a lot of the bottlings they previously had have almost sold out. Seems like Pardon have thankfully caught onto the fact, through discussions, supportive readers, and dedicated drinkers that there’s a demand for domestic whisky. Although the additional whiskies are nothing spectacular in terms of quantity, it’s good to know that the store is making an effort to cater for its patrons needs.

The store seemed to have a bit of a theme going on over the weekend. Domestic Ji-whisky or artisan craft whisky appeared to be the flavour of the month according to staff recommendations. Two distillers, which are both associated with making Sake and Sochu but frolic in distilling whisky stood out.  Unfortunately I have not tasted either of them: Sun Peace blended whisky from Miyazaki Honten in Mie prefecture and also a blend labeled Sunshine Extra Special from Wakatsuru Shuzou in Toyama. Both blends come in the familiar 1.8 litre bottles that are used for primarily bottling Sake, which may suggest these blends are most likely produced for Izakaya’s and their suitably priced drinks. However, Wakatsuru Shuzou produces a 20-year-old expression that appears to be single malt. A mouth-watering review of this by Nonjatta contributor Dramtastic can be seen here.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Maintaining "The Spirit of Unity"

Many of you, presumably still carry the images of the great Tohoku earthquake freshly in your mind regardless of the passing of time. After the destruction that rocked Japan, worldwide aid flourished the country in many forms including that of the “Spirit of Unity” bottling from seven Scotch distilleries in support of Japan earthquake relief, which Chris at Nonjatta covered in one of many articles throughout the ordeal. Yesterday December 7, Rupert Millar at The Drinks Business has finally made the current proceeds of this limited bottling that consisted of donations of casks of single malt public in an entry titled “One-Off Whisky Raises Money for Japan”.

Entry based on the original articles by The Drinks Business and Nonjatta.
Images kindly obtained from both these articles. Thank you.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Shinan Motomachi Kobe

Minutes from Korosue, and directly in front of the JR Motomachi station (east exit) stands Shinan (新安). Another whisky retailer, in the heart of the city, that is well worth a stop over for any traveling visitor or local resident. Independent and limited edition bottlings of Scotch are in mass here along with an amazing selection of rum, vodka, and luxury wines for the fans. The retailer claims to stock over 5,000 different kinds of alcohol from all over the world. The Japanese whisky selection is quite bland to be honest but they do have an amazing assortment of Yamazki and Hakushu Vintage Malt bottlings that are enticing and justifies a visit.

Shinan carries a certain nostalgic atmosphere; the shop has apparently been around for decades and this is certainly accounted for by the two elderly staff that maintains the place. The shop not only stocks a variety of alcohol but also a few odds and ends, a selection of foreign and Japanese cigarettes I have never seen before, and enough assorted rice crackers to keep you busy while indulging. Since Shinan is within walking distance of Korosue, it's worth going between the two shops to compare prices despite Shinan’s signs dotting the front of the store suggesting a sale. At times either one can be slightly cheaper or stock something slightly different than the other. Although the shop is quite small, one can spend a good portion of time in there browsing at the Scotch selection that is stacked from floor to ceiling. Be sure to look at the shelves above and behind the counter also, there are few interesting bottles of Japanese whisky with an according price attached.

1-13-11 Motomachi,
Chuo-ku, Kobe-shi

078-331 3503


Introduction by Clint A

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

No Idea Tachinomi Rokkomichi

The man behind BAR+NO IDEA, the cozy little establishment in Rokkomich where locals seek refuge over drams and Othello is back. This time bigger than one could imagine in terms of selection and creativity. Ishida-san, popular for his friendliness and humor, last month opened up his third enterprise in yet again Rokkomichi and minutes from the old place. This time around he has successfully introduced a selection of food at his new venue that includes Kushikatsu and Oden. Surprisingly enough these types of foods, which generally are suited to beer, go well with his imaginative selection of Japanese whisky that the old venue lacked.

The new establishment is unbelievably cheap and stylish with the majority of Scotch and Japanese whisky ranging between 500~700 yen per 30ml serve. The reasoning behind the affordability, which in my opinion is the cheapest place in Kansai to have a dram, is that the establishment is marketed as a tachinomi, literally a stand up bar. Although a tachinomi usually consists of the standard alcohol beverage list and associated snacks, which this place does, the main emphasis is on whisky and Kushikatsu that seems to work well believe it or not.

Besides the astronomical cheap whisky prices, this new concept food and whisky bar has daily specials such as the One Coin set that includes a draft beer and two fried skewers of your choice. Opened from 2:00pm, with no cover charge, which is a blessing for local residents, happy hour starts from 3:00pm and finishes at 5:00pm. Outside of happy hour everything is amazingly cheap if you cannot make it between those times. The malt selection may change over time but in any conciliation there will be something pleasing for everyone. This is well worth the minimal effort to visit this place. The liquor chain Yamaya is within walking distance so make the most of it while in Rokkomichi, Kobe.



2-12-2 Morigocho,
Nada-ku, Kobe-shi

Monday, November 28, 2011

Suntory Yamazaki Bourbon Barrel 48%abv

Nose: Honey vanilla ice cream, tinned peach syrup, muesli (Costco granola), strawberries, dark chocolate and presence of oak with a pinch of pepper.

Taste: Chocolate, a touch of spice, slightly nutty with medium fig mouthfeel.

Finish: Initial spice that prolongs into sweet vanilla, oak and again figs.

Comment: I found myself enjoying this as much as I thought I would. Certainly exciting in the right mood. Worth while to let it open up a bit.

Reviewed by Clint A

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Taketsuru 35-Year-Old

Nonjatta has an interesting post on the 2011 bottling of Nikka’s 35-year-old Taketsuru. Nikka’s mouthwatering description on the nose and taste of this limited-edition expression put it at the top of the “want to try” list. Perhaps I wont spoil the experience by repeating Nikka’s enticing self notes for those lucky enough to be able to obtain and afford a bottle, or at least have the opportunity to have a dram of it and experience it for yourself.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Hakushu NAS - Whisky Shop W Bottling

Expression: Hakushu - no age statement - Bottled: 2011 - original store bottling for Whisky Shop W - Volume: 300ml

Nose: Earthy. Mint with lime milkshakes - sweet. Hints of faint smoke that is initially hidden but rolls out after opening up. With a drop of water sherbet (Wizz Fizz – flavoured sweet powder) becomes noticeable along with dusty wood - pine perhaps.

Taste: Citrus: lime. Then, a touch of aniseed with an abundance of fresh mint: mojito. The addition of water adds a touch of cloves, spice, and a tease of smoke.

Finish: Silky, complex, with an initial splash of spice, cloves, and prolonged mint. Pleasantly mouth numbing. Water turns this into a semi spice driven ride with a licorice mouth feel. 

Comment: Quite a pleasant little number. Not your typical Hakushu but just as rewarding. Spend a long time with it. Experiment with water for complexity. 

Reviewed by Clint A

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Hakushu Original Store Bottling

For those of you who have followed Whiskies R Us relatively from the beginning would be familiar with Whisky Shop W. A store owned by Suntory, which was established specifically to educate residents of Osaka and make them aware of whisky. Whisky Shop W is quite unique in the sense as it is an establishment that not only offers whisky and associated gifts for sale, but allows patrons the opportunity to sample whisky for a minimal cost. Being owned by Suntory naturally means that the nectar available is nothing but Suntory. Certainly no complaints here, especially when Suntory’s chief blenders are allowed to play around and come up with unique concoctions limited only to the store. I finally have in my possession one of these exclusive store bottlings, single malt distilled at Hakushu. Whisky Shop W informs me that there are 58 bottles remaining of this expression that retails at 3,150 yen for 300mls. Putting volume aside, this unique whisky would be well worth the money and lets not forget the 10-minute walk from the JR Umeda station. I have not opened this bottle yet but plan to enjoy it over the weekend. Keep your eyes out for the review.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Yamazaki 50-Year-Old

Suntory announced yesterday the release of the 50-year-old Yamazaki, an iconic whisky that will be on sale from December 13. The 700ml limited edition 50-year-old single malt is Suntory’s 2011 bottling that is set to retail for approximately 1,000,000 yen (12,700 AUD) and is limited to only 150 bottles nation wide. The single malt, which is believed to be heavily fragranced and deep-bodied with assistance from Mizuna wood, is said to become available in selected high-end department stores that began placing orders on the day of the announcement. Similar occurrences took place with the announcement of the 2005 and 2007 bottlings. Representatives have said that the 57 percent bottling that is very sought after will basically be available to those on a first-come-first-served basis. Theoretically only those with big pockets will have the pleasure of owning this nectar or at least tasting it, which has sold for 90,000 yen (1,100 AUD) a shot in the past. For a detailed review of what its like to have this liquid reach every crevasse of your mouth, take a look at Nicholas Coldicott's interesting entry.

Update: Chris Bunting, the founder of Nonjatta has kindly pointed out that a shot of Yamazaki 50-year-old is not an "estimated" 90,000 yen as previously mentioned but "exactly" 90,000 yen. These prices are evident in Nicolas' article above. Changes have been made accordingly.

Image kindly obtained from Suntory

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Taketsuru Premium Highball II

Nikka debuts a new addition to their existing portfolio today, November 8. Only it’s not an introduction into a new bottle of nectar unfortunately, but yet again another canned highball. One could possible say that this Taketsuru highball is somewhat premium compared to other highballs that adorn the shelves of convenience stores and supermarkets nation wide. Like the previous Taketsuru 12 year-old highball, this is somewhat true if you set it side by side with lets say a Torys highball, but once again, as discussed on previous posts, the majority of serious drinkers tend to cringe when seeing a perfectly good malt being drank mixed with something other than a bit of water. Regardless, the market and popularity for such a beverage is never fading, which I feel I have said too many times before, and this is evident in Suntory’s upcoming winter launch of a Yuzu flavoured Torys highball that was easily predicatedIn conjunction with the debut of this non-aged Taketsuru highball, Nikka is giving away to 200 winning entrants two cans per person. For those of you who are not fortunate enough to win and wish to give it a go, according to Nikka as of today all major convenience stores will have it for sale while stocks last. Click here for entry details.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Mars Amber Blended Whisky 40% abv

Nose: Weak sherry, damp towels, peppered cauliflower, plastic buckets, slightly cereal and a very faint florally note.

Taste: Faint solvent, peppered cabbage water, again weak sherry, thin almost vanishing in your mouth.

Finish: Short would be an understatement. Watery. Not a lot happening besides the quick disappearance of spice.

Comment: Nothing really unpleasant about this blend but don't expect a lot to happen. Now that is just my opinion of course. Dare I say it but maybe good for a mixer? 

Review by Clint A

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

New Calm Revival

Some interesting news has come to light on a particular post that was written sometime ago. Instead of just briefly updating the bottom of the post I have decided to add a new entry for this update. New Calm, the home brand whisky of the Coop supermarket, which is clearly stated, to be produced by Nikka has reappeared in a heavy publicized campaign throughout a handful of stores in Kobe. It appears that New Calm, which comes in the 1.8L plastic bottle, has revealed its source. Although not written on the back of the label itself, one of Coop’s advertisements for the whisky writes “this whisky has been made using malt from Hokkaido’s Yoichi and Sendai’s Miyagikyo distilleries”, theoretically indicating it’s a pure malt. However, another source has indicated that New Clam also contains grain whisky therefore it represents a blend. Obviously the size of this whisky along with its current campaign price of 2,180 yen (20 EUR/27 USD) clearly points out it’s the aforementioned whisky type and purely produced to cater for the ongoing highball campaign. That or Nikka has a lot of whisky to play with for reasons that are not known. One thing is for certain and that is a tasting is in need, if only it was bottled appropriately for this purpose.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Whisky Festival 2011 - Minato Ku

The long awaited decision has finally come to a conclusion. The fifth whisky festival, which will be held in Hotel Nikko, Tokyo has been put together once again for the fans. On November 20, Asahi, who is in charge of Nikka’s distribution and PR, will introduce various Nikka and Scotch expressions for all to enjoy. Samplings of new and rare whiskies can be had in the various booths on offer. The event will kick off at 11:00am and will finish up at 6:00pm. Advanced tickets are 3,500 yen and tickets on the day are 4,500 yen. For further information about admission tickets click here.

Hotel Nikko 1F Orion
1-9-1, Daiba, Minato-ku,



Image obtained from the Scotch Whisky Research Centre

Monday, October 24, 2011

The Cask of Yamazaki 1993 - Heavily Peated Malt

Distilled: May/1993 - Bottled: Oct/2007 - Wood type: White oak - Cask type: Puncheon - Cellar: Ohmi aging cellar - Cask number: 3Q70042 - Bottling No. 311/574 - ABV: 62%

Nose: Saute mushrooms with a splash of worcestershire sauce, mowed grass, oak, smoke from incense sticks. Nothing overly medicinal, but strong peat and earthy. Overused (faint) vanilla pot-puri.

Taste: Oak, HP sauce, incense smoke. Unfortunately I could not pick up anything else distinguishable, as this was my fourth malt in.

Finish: Reasonably long, semi-complex with a heavy linger of spice and subtle peat.

Comment: This bottle was opened, consumed, and reviewed  after having a few drams, which included For The Taster. I will tuck into this gem first thing next time and see what differences occur. Water was not added this time around, but I believe a bit of water may add wonders. Currently Rakuten has sold out of this expression and it appears to be quite challenging to come across, well worth the perseverance though.

Reviewed by Clint A

Friday, October 21, 2011

Ichiro's Malt Final Vintage of Hanyu - For the Taster 48%

Distilled: 2000 - Bottled: 2010 - Age: 10 year-old - Cask types: sherry, hogshead, and puncheon 

Nose: Sherry, musk, marmalade jam, herbs, molasses, orange liqueur, new upholstery.

Taste: Sherry, spice, cloves, and slightly raisiny.

Finish: Rich, semi-complex, with a linger of spice and treacle.

Comment: Certainly much more pleasurable this time around than the first time, which was at the Hanshin tasting session. I tried the tinniest of portions from a small plastic shot cup. On this occasion I had one or two whiskies before getting amongst The Taster, next time I will start with it straight of the bat and see what happens. Maybe a change will occur? Either way it was quite pleasing.

Review by Clint A

Monday, October 17, 2011

Arita-Yaki Nikka Bottling

On a recent and pleasurable trip to the blue skies and fresh air of Tottori prefecture, I struck gold. Gold not as in the yellow precious metal but something that is equally precious. A bottle of Nikka’s Super blended whisky. The nectar in this bottle maybe considered average by some, but the bottle itself is somewhat beyond typical. The commemorative decanter is fine Imari porcelain, a renowned name for porcelain ware made in the town of Arita, northwestern Kyushu. The porcelain ware produced in the town is nationally known better as Arita-yaki (有田焼). The fine pearly white bottle, which is beautifully illustrated with vibrant blossoms, was handmade for Nikka. This remarkable whisky bottle that reputedly sat on a shelf for almost 30 years or more is still sealed and full. The labels, which state the whisky being bottled in Minatoku, Tokyo have taken a bit of a battering but nevertheless remain intact. I’m not going to pretend I have vast knowledge about this commemorative bottling; the simple truth is I don’t. I have used resources to try and find out further details but have not come up with anything than what I have written. Whiskies R Us invites any comments or feedback.

Alcohol percentage: 43%
Volume: 700ml
Batch: 08J12

Wednesday, October 12, 2011


Update January 2015: Most of if not all the whiskies pictured are no longer available at Pardon except Mars Amber and the Akashi blend, and in 2015 it is fair to say on a personal level this retail chain is now beatable in terms of selection and size. Still well worth a visit however.

Quite simply, up until now, nothing has come as close to Pardon in terms of size and selection, especially the selection of domestic whiskies. I’m even inclined to say that the Scotch range is possibly unbeatable. This may change one day, but until I come across something equally if not better, this massive but independent liquor retailer goes down as the best retailer of the year in west Japan. Now that may appear to be putting my neck on the line, but this can be backed up with not only their imaginative selection of whisky, but their impressive and biggest selection to date of independent sochu, sake, Japanese micro beer, and international wines in both stores. Besides the array of every imaginable alcoholic beverage under one roof, Pardon also cleverly stocks an impressive range of nibbles and gourmet snacks to accompany and cater for any drink. I could continue to write about Pardon, such as the pleasant smells one is engulfed in on entering the store, or the array of colourful sake barrels, and whisky props, but I will leave that for another time, as this place will be an ongoing entry, and possibly reviewed in detail in a future Kansai whisky directory that I have in plan.

Nishi Kobe Shop
16-2-2 chome,
Nishi-ku, Kobe
Tel: 078-978-5788

Nishiwaki Shop (Head office)
588-1 Shimotoda,
Nishiwaki, Hyogo prefecture
Tel: 0795-23-8010