Friday, February 25, 2011

Sherry Wood Choccies

We have all seen various kinds of liquor chocolates and whisky bonbons in our time. Some are pleasant in small quantities and some are just down right sickly. It appears chocolate manufactures (well in Japan anyway) have taken note and upped the anti to go the extra kilometre.

This exquisite, soft, truffle like chocolate is made out of an equally exquisite dram by Suntory. The Yamazaki sherry wood single malt expression, which is made in limited quantities, has been blended with some fine dark chocolate and fresh cream from ROYCEThis little sweet sensation from Hokkaido has a very strong sherry wood mouth feel but in no way overly dominant, it's delicate and silky.

Some could arguably say that mixing a limited dram such as Suntory’s 40% sherry wood expression with anything is devastating and touchy. Perhaps this intriguing article from Japan Times Online, by Nicholas Coldicott can make you think other wise. The article provides some interesting choccie and dram combinations for all of you who have an appreciation for whisky and ……well…. chocolates. Perhaps the most interesting combination (for me) was the Yoichi, no age statement (recommended to Nicholas Coldicott by Chris Bunting at Nonjatta) paired with Anthon Berg Fair Trade chocolates.

Monday, February 21, 2011

World Liquor System

Yamaya (やまや), aka World Liquor System, is Japan’s largest bottle shop retail chain. Stores are dotted throughout the country from north to south and stock a variety of domestic and international brands, including a moderate range of whisky. Stores are not specifically dedicated to malt but the majority has a reasonably sized corner with an adequate range.

Perhaps one of the best things about Yamaya is the  large stockpile and variety of domestic whisky at a very reasonable price. You can get anything from White Oak's Akashi single malt to a 25-year old expression from Yamazaki. With specialized wines as its core, the company prides itself on sourcing liquor and various accompanying food from all over the world. Yamaya boasts that it's recognized in Japan as a pioneer, both as an importer and a retailer. Perhaps that's something you can decide for your self by visiting one of the 254 (March 31,2020) stores.

For those who fancy an independent bottling and are looking for something special to reward your palate, there are some exceptional malts under lock and key available, with a price to go with it. As for standard bottlings of malt, a vast array can be found at any Yamaya store that will equally satisfy (presumably).

The store in the photos above is an effortless 2 stop train ride from JR Sannomiya (heading towards Osaka). Get off at the JR Rokkomichi station and head out the exit adjacent to the bus stop. Turn right and walk to the first set of traffic lights (100m), on the corner is a KFC. Here, turn right again and follow the road down another 500 meters and Yamaya is on the left hand side on the corner (at the main intersection).

Opening hours


Thursday, February 17, 2011

Nikka Taketsuru 12yo Pure Malt 40%

Pure malt whisky or vatted malt is a blend of malt whiskies from different distilleries. In the case of the Taketsuru 12-year old pure malt, it's a blend of barley malt from both the Yoichi and Miyagikyo distilleries. The term "Pure Malt"means that the bottle contains no grain whisky.  

Nose: Ice cream cones, flat cola, crème caramel, stewed apples, hints of cloves, wooden boxes, barley sugar, hints of nutmeg, florally.

Taste: Initially sweet - purified apples, going into minor spice notes - nutmeg and peppery kicks. No complexities but never the less an enjoyable malt.

Finish: Medium-border line short.  

Balance: As enjoyable as this malt is, the taste did not live-up to the nose (in my opinion). Have I missed something here?

Comments: Generally don't add water to my tastings unless it's a cask strength, on this occasion added about 5~6 drops. Possibly drowned it, surely not? Besides the medium-border line short finish, I found myself having 3 drams of this in the same evening. That itself says something. 30 minutes later the empty tasting glass had some very powerful floral aromas with ash. Lovely!

Reviewed by Clint A

Monday, February 14, 2011

Torys Highball

Working hard to increase demand and expand consumption, Suntory has further popularized the industry with another addition to the whisky-and-soda range, called Torys highball. This particular highball as with many others on the market has an alcohol volume of seven percent. All though this highball is claimed to be refreshing, and most likely be welcomed by some on a humid summers night, the malt grain is of lesser standard compared to its cousin the “Kakubin highball”. The recommended retail price justifies this but it’s great to see a wide range of products for a wide range of customers. And lets not forget to mention the reintroduction of the old advertising brand character Uncle Tory (situated top-left on can) that some of you are familiar with from your distillery visits.

Suntory Old Blended Whisky 43% abv

Nose: Freshly baked ginger bread with dusty wood and saw dust. There is evidence of musty warehouses (not in an unpleasant way) followed by vanilla, small spice, and the smell after a rain shower (dusty scent).

Taste: Oranges and canned fruit salad roll of the surface. Mellow spice and stale cigarettes are evident with entertaining malty implications.

Finish: Short and slightly flat, enjoyable but not highly distinguishable in comparison to other blends in the price catogery.

Balance: Well balanced, silky smooth, and clean blend. The aftertaste is amusing but a little short in my opinion. Never the less enjoyable in its own way.

Comments: I let this sit for a good 8 minutes before I considered nosing and tasting. This bottle had been sitting in the cupboard for sometime, quarter full, so a little air may have put a slight tinge to it.

Reviewed by Clint A

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Ichiro's Malt

For a number of interesting posts on Ichiro's malt expressions, take a look at some exceptional reviews by Nonjatta contributor - Dramtastic (Brian). The reviews cover a range of malts from the Hanyu distillery including the "Card Series", such as the Four of Spades along with The Final Vintage of Hanyu expressions. My personal favourite (review) is a malt from Ichiro's Chichibu distillery: Newborn Heavily Peated. Reading this makes my mouth water and I can literally taste it............nice one.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Dedicated Whisky Shop - KOROSUE

There are liquor shops and then there are dedicated whisky shops. Arguably one of the best and biggest shops in Motomachi, a district of Kobe, KOROSUE is on the forefront of meeting everyone’s needs. Whether you prefer single malt, grain whisky, corn rye, blended whisky, or bourbon this shop stocks the lot from a variety of nations. At any given time there can be a variety of up to 500 whiskies available, in particular single malts.

For the purist, KOROSUE stock an array of Scotch and Japanese single malt whiskies. Anything from standard, independent, vintage, to limited edition bottlings can be found here at a reasonable and competitive price. One of my personal top three favourite stores in the city of Kobe, KOROSUE, on the majority of occasions have in stock a particular malt I’m looking for.

Mr. Murakami, one of the staff members at KOROSUE has an extensive knowledge and welcomes any questions one would want to ask, in particular relating to Japanese malt. Besides the diversity of whiskies, the shop dabbles in what appears to be well-crafted and exquisite wine along with some other fascinating spirits (in a low-key manner). On top of this I must not forget to mention a decent sized cigar humidifier that is stockpiled with the very best to presumably compliment any whisky purchase.

If you’re in the area it is my absolute recommendation to take a look regardless whether you have any intentions to make a purchase or not (though I guarantee you most likely will). I’m forever spending a good half an hour every time I go in and the guys never seem to mind. If you have the opportunity to head in this month, the store has a display of Suntory bottlings that include Hakushu's "Heavily Peated" and "Bourbon Barrel" expressions as well as Yamazaki's 'Puncheon'.

5 minutes by foot from the JR Motomachi station. Walk out the east exit of the station and turn right, walk parallel to the tracks on the left hand side. 

Sundays / Public holidays

Business hours


Friday, February 4, 2011

Hakushu 1985 Vintage Malt

Distilled: 1985 - Bottled: 2004 - ABV: 56%

Nose: Ripe banana, dusty wood, intense and powering, a slight whiff of pine cones.

Taste: Slight hint of smoke; first mouthful a bit dry, oak spice, fennel or perhaps a slight trace of aniseed, tinned cherries.

Finish: Vanilla and spice, long and earthy. Would prefer a bit more smoke to stimulate my tongue; builds up to a mouthwatering malt.

Balance:  Warming, complex, a massive alcohol punch.

Comments: Would like to get amongst this malt a bit more and sit on it for longer than I did on this occasion. Possibly an updated review in time to come.

Reviewed by Clint A

Tuesday, February 1, 2011


Update April, 2013: This bar has since been transformed into a standard Izakaya (Japanese pub). Therefore there is no longer a wide variety of malts on offer. Enthusiasts seeking malt might like to consider another alternative.

A brief walk downtown, slightly of trek but well worth the effort, will lead you to an out of sight, secluded, and camouflaged establishment that you’d all wish to stumble across. By exiting east of the JR Kobe station and taking a 10-minute stroll, you will be in the vicinity of a pub-lounge called HOUJU. The translation of the bar which Iwata-san, the owner, kindly related means “everlasting fragrance”. Very appropriate given what’s on offer.

HOUJU complies with traditional Japanese standards by allowing you to either purchase a bottle to keep at the bar, or order individually. For those of you with adequate finance, glass cabinets filled with an array of independent and vintage bottlings tempt and surround you to invest in. Those of you who would prefer to sample malts individually are met with equally tempting expressions.

Bar HOUJU is quite a nostalgic looking place, so are the malts that line the shelves waiting for consumption. On passing you would easily mistake it for a residence if it weren’t for the bright, light blue neon sign, jumping out at you as you walked past. It could be well said that you’ve stepped back in time on entering. Thick, wooden, heavy, high back chairs line the equally thick bar that compliments the nostalgic atmosphere. 

Iwata-san is not shy to boast about his achievements in the industry. He has been pouring drams to patrons since the age of 28 and has successfully led HOUJU into its 25-year. His knowledge of whisky is extensive; most likely being able to answer any malt related question one wishes to ask. With a friendly smile he assures me that HOUJU is a “typical retreat for a guy”. This is justified with his affection and conversations not only on whisky, but also on his passion for vintage British motorbikes. For those of you who fancy not just only the grain but also the grape, a nice selection of humidified reds from various parts of the world are on offer also. If you are ever in the port, take a walk and reward yourself. 

1-4-1 Mikawaguchi
Kobe-shi, Hyogo-ku,

In Japanese