Monday, June 27, 2011

Nikka's Customer Appreciation Day

It appears Nikka, at their Yoichi distillery in Hokkaido, will make the most of the bearable July weather in the northernmost island and hold an out door event. To show their loyalty and appreciation to their customers, the grounds of the Yoichi distillery will be open for a family orientated festival named “Customer Gratitude Day”. The distillery seems to be going all out for the day of festivities, which include a brass band, stalls, and prize wining games (mass bingo), an enticement for the whole family. There will be various types of food, and lets not forget the main ingredient, tasting sessions on offer. Obviously Hokkaido is not a place that allows you to jump on the local train and be there quicker than you can say “another Yoichi please”, well for people in Kansai anyway, but for the adventourous, this event is free, so you could possibly tie it up with a trip. For a more detailed description of the day's events, take a look here.

Time: 9:00am~3:00pm
Date: July 3 (Sunday)
Where: Yoichi Distillery, Hokkaido
Address: Hokkaido Yoichigun Yoichimachi Kurokawacho 7-6 Japan

Update: in addition to the day of festivities on July 3, learn about Nikka’s two-day whisky workshops at both their Yoichi and Miyagikyo distilleries through a recent entry at Nonjatta. Sounds very interesting.

Image obtained from the Nikka website. Thank you.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Recommended Malts of an Assassin

Barry Eisler, the renowned author and man behind the Rain series, shares an interest in the mouth-watering liquid we have all become to love. Like quite a few readers of Whiskies R Us, Barry has lived and worked extensively in Japan, in particular Tokyo, and had the opportunity to frequent some of the well-established malt bars that are on offer. Barry intriguingly incorporates these establishments, as well as the familiar surroundings of both Tokyo and Osaka into his books, surroundings that some of us have an association with. He also integrates his love of whisky into the fictional character John Rain, a malt aficionado, and a man talented in the art of Judo, assassination: death by natural causes, and surveillance. 

While the sophisticated character John Rain wrecks havoc through out the series, he always manages to find the time to enjoy a good single or two. In Barry’s first book Rain Fall, he introduces a nonfictional bar in Osaka that goes by the name of Bar Satoh. The detail that goes into the author’s description of this bar indicates his appreciation for a fine establishment and the patronage it provides. “This presents an opportunity for Whiskies R Us to explore and relay in the future”. In addition to descriptive bars, through out the series (total of 6 books), Rain, during his global traveling, indulges in a number of drams and provides brief reviews. These novels have the right mixture of content, thoroughly recommended. Ever wondered what a highly qualified assassin would drink? Take a look at John Rain’s top ten recommendations. For further information take a look at here

Image kindly obtained from the Barry Eisler website. Thank you.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Heavily Peated Hakushu

Korosue, the dedicated whisky retail outlet I frequently visit and recommend in Kobe, now have back in stock and available for order, exceptional malt from the Hakushu distillery. The “ Heavily Peated” NAS expression is once again back; the 2010 release that has a limited production of 2000 bottles can be purchased for 8,190 yen (around $95). The 2009 release rose to fame when it won gold medal at the International Spirits Challenge (ISC), since then this gem can be quite an adventure to track down. Bottled at 48 percent and non-chill filtered, this moderately peated Hakushu does not disappoint (Hakushu never does). Slightly creamy, with an abundance of welcoming smoke, this very deep and flavoursome malt is around only while stocks last. Details of the store can be found here.

Image kindly obtained from the Korosue website. Thank you.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Yamazaki Stocks Running Low

Chris Bunting at Nonjatta writes about the supplies of Yamazaki 10-year old being notably low. This is an interesting entry, information I had not yet learned of, certainly a recommended and appreciative read.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Hanshin Tasting Sessions

For those of you who are lucky enough to currently reside in either Osaka or Kobe, a rarity is going on. Until June 19, father’s day in Japan, the Hanshin department store in Umeda is providing one of the biggest tasting sessions I have seen to date. I’m not talking a messily 3 or 4 bottles, I’m talking at least 50 malts on offer for you to nose, sample, compare and evaluate. To celebrate the contribution that fathers and father figures make for their children, Hanshin have gone all out and provided the ultimate gift option to its shoppers. A massive selection, I estimate at least 100 different expressions, of single malt whisky, including a very impressive range of Japanese malts, are available. Usually department stores are quite bland in their selection of whisky, in the case of Hanshin, I have never seen a better spread put together in my decade of living here. Whether a gift or for personal consumption, now is the time to buy. You can get anything from a 3 year-old Kilchoman Islay to a $230 bottle of Ichiro’s 8 of clubs, from the well-known card series. I must admit, being a department store, in some instances the prices did exceed normal outlets such as KOROSUE, but on the other hand the selection is unbeatable.
I should confess my greediness; I appreciatively indulged in at least 12 expressions (very small tipples) during my visit last night. These included mostly Japanese expressions from Nikka and Ichiro’s Malt, followed by some mouthwatering Islay whiskies such as the aforementioned 3 year-old Kilchoman (divine). Besides one or two malts from Ichiro’s bottlings, the stand out for me was the Yoichi 12 year-old. I know in a previous post I mentioned that I preferred the Miyagikyo to the Yoichi, but this was the NAS expression, the 12 year-old is completely in another field. The Hanshin department store is easily accessible from any one of the major train or subway stations in Umeda. The tasting session is on the ground floor amongst the delicatessens.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Summer Highball Campaign

Last month it was “One More Can”, a simple peel and reveal nationwide campaign were consumers who bought a canned highball of Suntory Kaku were in the running to instantly win another. This months “summer highball campaign” in Japan is simply named “Drink and Receive”. Suntory, again, seem to be on a heavy campaign trail, this time pushing the Torys highball. Until the end of July, patrons of participating Izakaya’s (Japanese pubs) can receive, courtesy of Suntory, an Uchiwa (hand fan). By consuming a Kaku or Torys highball, any one of the hand fans, sporting three different designs of the well-known Uncle Tory character, and one of the Japanese actress Koyuki kato, could be yours to keep you cool this summer. Campaigns, like the one mentioned, suggest highballs are maintaining popularity just as the beverage once did before in another era. Whether you indulge in these concoctions is another matter.

The Image was kindly obtained from the Torys website.Thank you.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Suntory Hakushu 10yo 40% abv

Nose: Oak, flat cola, faint hints of licorice all sorts, dirt dust, slightly florally.

Taste: Barley, oak, sweetness, remote spice.

Finish: Light, short to medium, dry but delightful.

Overall: As much as I like this, it does not compare to the 12-year old. I think for me, the distinguishable, slight rolling peat in the older expression does its justice. Having said that, the 10-year old is certainly pleasant. 

Comments: I seriously have to discipline my self when drinking any expression of Hakushu. I find the rim of the glass closer to my mouth than my nose, waiting to be consumed, wanting the mouthfeel without delay. As I mentioned in the 12-year old review, for me Hakushu is one of my favourites.

Reviewed by Clint A

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Drinking Japan by Chris Bunting

Last night, on my brisk stroll through the Kinokuniya bookstore in Umeda (Osaka), a certain book caught my attention. Amongst the “books on Japan” section, stacked seven high, was Chris Bunting’s long waiting book Drinking Japan. For new readers, Chris Bunting maintains a very popular whisky blog under the name Nonjatta. Most of you are aware of this book, and have known for sometime that it has been available through Amazon. But, it now appears to be available at all major bookstores throughout the Kansai region. An acquaintance from the Junkudo bookstore in Sannomiya also informs me that Drinking Japan is available there. There seems to be something a bit more satisfying being able to physically purchase books from a store than just clicking a button, well for some anyway, so if this is you, and you reside in Japan, these bookstores await you. I noticed the attractive cover of the book sports a bright yellow sticker on the top right hand corner. This stated that a portion of proceeds from the book would be donated to Japan Earthquake Relief (I have heard from the author that the arrangement is that half of his earnings will be donated for as long as the edition is in print). So besides looking like a good read, Drinking Japan supports a good cause. Unfortunately I have not purchased this as of yet, but the book, bound in a very soft and flexible cover, allows quick and easy reference while on the go to Japanese liquor, including a very welcoming section on whisky, and bars through out Japan. So while out and about, head into your nearest bookstore and reward yourself.

The International Standard Book Number (ISBN) for Drinking Japan is: 4805310545
The image was kindly obtained from the Drinking Japan website. Thank you.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Party-Size Blend

The lucrative marketing of domestic whisky continues to thrive on the shores of Japan. Suntory recently announced that its Torys (Extra) blended whisky would now be available in 300ml bottles. The newly sized bottles, that have been available from May 24, allow consumers to enjoy 10 average sized Torys highballs according to the distiller. Until now, the very cheaply priced blend (for obvious reasons) was available in four different sizes: 700ml (1080 yen), 180ml (350 yen), 1920ml (2700 yen), and a 2.7 litre plastic bottle (3700 yen).  Apparently the 300ml sized bottle makes the blend more party-friendly. The new addition to the family is uniquely labeled with animation of Uncle Tory. At present, in participating supermarkets and liquor stores, a 300ml bottle of Torys accompanied with a 200ml can of Suntory soda can be bought (while stocks last) for 500 yen. In addition, it seems like the distiller has upped the ante and also recently released a 500ml canned Torys highball. Originally, they only had their traditional 350ml can available. 

Images were kindly obtained from the Torys website. Thank you.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Mitsubishi Pure Malt Oak Premium Edition

We all enjoy tracking down bottles of whisky, whether the malt is for regular consumption, investment, or to be put away for the future for special occasions. Some of us go that little bit further and accompany our affection for whisky by including paraphernalia in our accumulation. Besides bottles of malt, the occasional glass, and whisky related reading material, I for one don’t generally buy paraphernalia. However, recently I found myself breaking the pattern and making a purchase that I would like to share. 

Mitsubishi, the well renowned manufacturer of various goods, most notably cars, continue to concentrate on their stationary product line-up and come up with things of interest. The Mitsubishi Pencil CO., LTD (Uni) has carefully selected high quality dark oak wood from pure malt whisky barrels to craft writing instruments. Mitsubishi claims that the oak reclaimed and used in making their stylish pens have previously nurtured whisky for a span of more than 50 years, which is why the oak is so dark.  It then supposedly took a considerable amount of years for the oak to dry and be free of any whisky characteristics. On the description provided, it states that the Oak had a growth of 50 years before being turned in whisky barrels. Simple calculations age the wood retained in their pens to be around 100-years old.

There is no indication as to which Japanese distillery the reclaimed oak has come from, but the salesman where I bought the pen said he was led to believe they are old Yamazaki casks. Regardless of which distillery the oak comes from, just to have a bit of history in your hand is quite unique I think. Lets not forget to mention that the pen itself is quite remarkable. The polished wood provides a silky touch, retains warmth in the users hand (just like a whisky really), and has precise writing. After checking Mitsubishi’s global site, The Mitsubishi Pure Malt Oak Premium Edition lineup appears to be available only in Japan. You can check out the line-up on their official site (in Japanese) as well as place orders. I’m confident if you jump on line you will have no problems in obtaining one of these semi-luxury but very affordable pens (see mine below).

Update 8.6.2011: it appears that the Oak Wood Premium Edition pens are in fact made from old Yamazaki casks. Suntory officially provides this information on there Japanese website.

The image of the barrel making process was obtained from Mitsubishi's pencil site. Thank you.