Thursday, July 28, 2011

Bar Dion Temmabashi

Formal, savvy, a gentleman’s bar one might say, an establishment that maintains serenity and prohibits anything other than muted conversation. Bar Dion, conveniently located and in walking distance from the Temmabashi subway station was stylishly established in 2002. Slightly modern compared to your traditional whisky establishment, but never the less it retains all the characteristics and atmosphere, with a very reasonable menu. Although Bar Dion provides a variety of tasty Japanese malts that consists of a semi decent selection, patrons who prefer Scotch would most likely be better satisfied and benefited, as the selection is greater. The warm lighting of the establishment’s tabled area is appreciative, not overly dim, with just the right amount of lighting to be able to see the faces of people in front of you. Besides the array of bottles, sufficient lighting, and lavish wooden bar, perhaps one of the most noticeable attributes on entering is the roominess of the place. The right amount of space enabling patrons the opportunity to relaxingly enjoy their malt without any pressure. Visiting Bar Dion is well worth the experience, though as with any bar of great comfort and extravagance, drams are priced accordingly, so make preparations. For those who make the pilgrimage and want to make the most of their visit to Temmabashi, Bar Cadboll is a stones throw away.

1F,  2-28, Higashikouraibashi, Chuo-ku, Osaka-shi


Opening hours: 
Mon~Fri - 7:00PM~1:00AM
Saturday - 6:00PM~Midnight

Introduction by Clint A

Friday, July 22, 2011

Calming Blend

Either I have been walking around the last decade with my eyes closed, or recently, for various possible reasons, new additions of home brand whisky have been sprouting up on the shelves of Japanese supermarkets. I’d like to think with confidence it’s the aforementioned, as an avid pursuer of Japanese whisky I’d hate to think it was the former. Days after writing the post “Bang for Buck Blend”, I popped into another one of many local supermarkets out of curiosity. There, on the shelves in Coop, were 1.8 litre plastic bottles of New Calm blended whisky.  This home brand blend also sports a heavily cheap looking label, but the thing that sets New Calm apart from the Max Value blend is the significant and blatantly recognizable Nikka plastic cap. For anyone who has stepped foot in a Japanese supermarket will know there is a wide variety of cheap blends in large plastic bottles, such as the widely available King Whisky “Rin”. Such whiskies come in a variety of sizes and are dirt cheap, cheaper it seems than the recent addition of Coops blend. This is somewhat interesting while concerning. Even the Black Nikka blend that comes in 1.8 litres is cheaper (1850 Yen) than New Calm (2400 Yen), even though it sports the same plastic Nikka cap. How could this be, does this mean that the quality of the home brand blend obviously produced by Nikka exceeds the taste and quality of Black Nikka? It could be as simple as a branded whisky being marketed under a home brand, as it often happens with other products, but why the price variance? Can it be that New Calm contains finer ingredients? Call me paranoid but it’s just not logical and there’s more than meets the eye. I wouldn’t buy either of the blends but out of curiosity it would be interesting to compare New Calm with Black Nikka.

Suntory Yamazaki 12yo 43%abv

Nose: Butterscotch, vanilla marshmallows, caramel chews, hint of custard tart, mandarins, and strong alcohol: something slightly chemical.

Taste: Fennels, a very faint hint of licorice, ground cloves, sherry, dry.

Finish: Short-medium spicy mouthfeel with very little sweetness. Pulls up a bit short with nothing dominant lingering: not a lot happening mid-ending.

Comment: A few drops of water works well (careful not to drown it) with the Yamazaki 12 year-old. In my opinion the taste was slightly more appealing, and easier to distinguish the variety of sweet aromas by doing so.

Reviewed by Clint A

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Yamaya Renovations - Rokkomichi

Renovations have finally been completed at the Yamaya (World Liquor System) Rokkomichi, Kobe store. The attractive improvements have made way for vast amounts of space that house floor to ceiling glass cabinets filled with some special whisky. Although the bottle shop chains do not focus primarily on whisky as I have previously mentioned, the Rokkomichi store, since its renovations, has taken on a whole new appearance. The selection of both domestic and independent Scotch whisky have doubled, concentrating in particular on local brands and their various expressions. Perhaps they have realized they need to carter more appropriately to Japanese whisky enthusiasts and customer preference. 

The majority of high-end domestic brands such as the pictured “1996 Yamazaki bottling aged at the Ohmi cellar” are under lock and key, same as before, but the display cabinets have changed in size and presentation, allowing you to contemplate on your next purchase. As for mid range whiskies and blends, they are still kept on open shelves with more effort on presentation and an increase in 180ml bottlings. Although not a 100% pure dedicated whisky shop, in my opinion this shop is attractive and worth visiting even more so than before. The shop is conveniently placed in walking distance from the station, and as an added bonus, situated in an area with a few good bars such as "Bar No Idea". 

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Bang for Buck Blend?

Regardless of which city or country you reside in, there are always a handful of supermarkets that sell their own home brand products. This can range from an imitation packet of your favourite biscuits to cheap nasty soft drink. But how many of you can actually say they have seen home brand whisky? I believe the British supermarket TESCO has their own branded whisky that includes not only blends but also single malts. But other then this and in my time, I have not seen or heard of any other establishments that do, until I went meat shopping for my long weekend BBQ.

On the shelf at one of the local Suma supermarkets appropriately named Max Value, a heavily cheap looking label caught my eye. I didn’t know whether to be appalled or amused when I further inspected the Top Valu (value without an “e”) blended whisky. For a shockingly low price of 598 yen (about $7), a 720 ml bottle of blended whisky with an ABV of 37% can be yours, providing you want to take the challenge.

The whisky that also comes in a 2.7 plastic litre bottle states that it’s a smooth drinking whisky with an appealing taste. Propped right up next to the soda water section, one can only assume this has been massed produced to cater for the highball boom. Unfortunately the label didn’t state any specifics (not that I could clearly work out) but out of interest I will try and obtain more information as to where some of the whisky has come from and whether in fact it is distilled in Japan. It certainly makes you wonder considering two of the biggest Japanese distilleries don’t even have their cheapest 700ml blends under a retail price of 1000 yen.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Ikari - JR Osaka

Not a dedicated whisky shop, in fact not even a dedicated bottle shop, more like a decent mini super market with a reasonable selection of alcohol. Never the less, for anyone transiting at the JR Osaka Station through their travels at any one of Kansai’s hot spots, and looking for that last minute gift, then Ikari could be the place. Conveniently situated at the west exit, inside the JR Osaka Station, literally ten steps from the ticket gates is Ikari. Here, you will be able to purchase from a very small selection of Japanese whisky that includes Nikka’s 15-year old Yoichi, 12-year old Taketsuru pure malt, a few assorted blends from Suntory, as well as miniature bottles of Yamazaki 12-year old. I would only recommend JR Osaka Ikari as a last minute resort, without an option, say, while changing trains in Osaka ready to head to the airport and wanting to take back a bit of Japan to your home town. Although there are some good quality duty free Japanese whiskies available at the Kansai airport, those on a budget or wanting to relieve themselves of shrapnel, loading it off here on reasonable pure malt such as the aforementioned Taketsuru malt might be more practical. Ikari stores are dotted throughout Kansai and each store stocks products accordingly to their customer’s needs or location. Often larger stores will have a better selection so if you have the opportunity to come across one in your travels, which I can almost certainly guarantee you will, pop in and take a look.

For long term residents wanting whisky, take a look at either one of the large department stores in Umeda, or keep your eye out for further entries at Whiskies R Us for shop listings in Osaka. 

Ikari JR Osaka Station

Opening hours
7:30am~11:00pm daily


Monday, July 11, 2011

Suntory Royal NAS 43% abv

Nose: Over-ripe banana, vanilla cookie dough, honey, stale pink musk stick-lollies, dusty, sweet.

Taste: Fisherman's friend cough drop-aniseed, cinnamon, ginger, certainly contradicts the nose; nothing overly sweet, well not enough to accurately indicate anyway besides the slight creaminess.

Finish: Smooth, short to medium with a very faint wave of ground pepper and aniseed.

Comment: This is my second tasting of Suntory's “Royal-NAS”, and I should point out that it was from a miniature. On this occasion, though I don’t normally, I felt the urge to add a few drops of water. In my opinion, doing so takes this blend to another level. Quite rewarding.

Reviewed by Clint A

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Ichiro's at Hankyu Umeda

It seems like not so long ago I mentioned the words “Ichiro’s malt”. Well in actual fact it wasn’t. It was a short while ago in an entry about a very entertaining tasting session at the Hanshin department store in Umeda. In an act of competitiveness or just out of pure coincidence, the Hankhyu department store, also in Umeda, recently have jumped in on the act and have several bottlings of Ichiro’s malt on offer, from the famed card series to the equally well-known Mizunara expression. Hankyu have been known to provide  a tasting with Ichiro’s malt in the past, unfortunately this time it’s not the case. Although the pricing of these somewhat delicate drams can possibly put you off, it’s worth taking note that the series won’t be around forever and possibly worth the investment (for consumption) down the track. At present, there certainly appears to be no shortage of Ichiro’s malt around the Osaka area. Although the Hankyu department store in Umeda has a few expressions on offer, most of the expressions are limited to small quantities, often than not, one bottle of each expression.  If you have been thinking of purchasing something a bit more special than normal, head in to either one of the department stores aforementioned, compare prices, and have chat to the knowledgeable staff (most of the time).