Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Torys Ginger Highball

A new addition to the ever-accumulating canned highball range will soon make its way to every supermarket and convenience store through out Japan. From September 6, Suntory will launch their 350ml Torys ginger canned highball nationwide. Besides the obvious factor of ginger flavouring, there is nothing overly distinguishable between this new flavoured highball and Torys Extra highball. Both canned drams come in an identical design, sporting the iconic Uncle Tory, but with a change of colour from red lettering to green. For highball fans, Torys ginger will coincide with a limited release of Suntory lemon soda attached to bottles of Kaku blended whisky around the same time. I wonder if Koyuki-san will be pushing this also?

The surge of highball popularity continues. It was only last week I made an entry about local Izakaya’s streaming highballs from taps. Establishments that never before considered highballs in drink menus are now forced to do so to not be part of a minority. As a result, increases of highball supporters are now expressing their opinions to establishments who then pass on the opinions to the industry. It appears the major industry players listen. Therefore, in any given coming time, expect to see a range of canned highballs coming in other flavours such as Yuzu and Plum (ume) to match the palate of locals. The additional capital for distillers will continue to rise, let’s hope this influx of capital brings rewards to consumers in the form of increased selection of single malts.

Image kindly borrowed from the Suntory website.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Ichiro Akuto Interview at Whisky Wall

The gentlemen (Chris & Nate) at The Whisky Wall have posted a very interesting interview with Ichiro Akuto at Chichibu distillery. The interview is attractively written in two parts and is a must read for everyone. I also enthusiastically recommend it. The first part looks into Ichiro’s family history of brewing sake and the fundamentals of whisky. The second part focuses on natural materials and distillery production. While on the subject of Ichiro Akuto, checkout the additional information of the recent blend that was released.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Highballing Hakushu in the Park

Hakushu in the Park”, an event that took place between April 29 and May 15 in Tokyo is back, only bigger and better it appears this time around. MIDPARK CAFÉ, which is nestled amongst the right amount of greenery, will once again transform its grassy area into an outdoor bar. From September 2 to October 2 park crusaders will have the opportunity to sip once again from a selection of Hakushu concoctions and rejoice hopefully amongst the right amount of sunlight and breeze. Word has it that highballing Hakushu in the park will become a regular thing due to the interest shown in April. Lets hope that these sorts of events will not only be limited to certain places and certain whisky in the future, but appear in major city parks nation wide. While we are on outdoor event news, the Nagano Outdoor Whisky Festival is looking ever so promising.

Photograph kindly borrowed from the Suntory website.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Nikka Pure Malt Black 43%abv

Nose: Slight varnish, grape bubble gum (Hubba Bubba), faint peat, dried mango, slightly nutty, honey, oak, and French toast (cinnamon/butter/sugar). What an array of aromas.

Taste: The bubble gum stays present, pepper, malty tones, honey in water, and salty Dutch licorice.

Finish: Complex. Short to medium finish was my first opinion but it took me by surprise halfway through and began a medium to long leg with spice lingering and tiny waves of peat. The licorice presence hovered amongst oak and ginger. Good balance of sweetness and spice.

Comment: This whisky is one you could have a few in a row without boredom or hesitation. Despite this malt not falling in the premium price range so to speak, I found I consumed this quicker than any other highly priced bottle I have, indicating something positive perhaps? Look forward to comparing it with the Pure Malt White and Red. I should also add that I’m very fond of the economical stubby bottle design. One possible improvement in my opinion could be the cork; unfortunately the cork itself is coated with a plastic resin that I found not to be 100% airtight.......goodness me, I've just poured myself another dram.

Reviewed by Clint A

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Cheery EX - Fukushima Prefecture

500ml bottling at 40% - 980 yen.

The fairly recent renovations of the Yamaya (WLS) liquor store in Rokkomichi continue to relish. The abundance of space continues to bring forth a generous selection of new domestic whiskies that were generally unseen in the past. On my most recent visit I came across a few interesting additions, but perhaps the one that caught my eye the most would have to be the bright green labeled bottle with the words “Fukushima Prefecture” scrolled across the bottom (bottlings have previously come in brown glass with blue labels).

Cherry EX states itself to be a high quality blend, which selects distillate from quality-reserved pot stills at the Yamazakura distillery. Through research, feedback, and labeling there is a big indication that this blend, all though following domestic regulations, obtains a percentage of non-grain spirit. Cherry whisky is bottled by Sasanokawa Shuzo, the people involved with Ichiro’s Ginkgo blend, but the manufacture is better known and acknowledge for its prized sake. The company began its whisky production in 1946 and began bottling soon after at the Fukushima premises; careful naming the blend from the inspiring wild cherry trees that lay abundant in the prefecture. 

Without being judgmental, a reasonable question is would you consume it, regardless of the destruction in this area and its aftermath hype? Cherry EX whisky comes in three expressions at various strengths and bottle sizes.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Streamed Highballs

I believe Tokyo have had them for quite a while, they began sprouting up vigorously in various places throughout Osaka, and now they have made an appearance amongst small Izakaya’s in every part of Sannomiya. The commodity of highballs on tap can either be frowned upon or rejoiced upon. There are certainly mixed reactions amongst serious whisky drinkers and those who embraced the highball boom. Big brass taps that perfectly pour the recommended proportion of soda and blended whisky is quite an interesting novelty regardless of your drinking preference. Nothing overly innovative though as highballs had been streamed from what resembled servers throughout Japan in the 1950’s.

Servers are dominantly Suntory and consist of three taps that give you a choice of Suntory’s reigning beer The Premium Malts to the heavily marketed Kakubin and Torys highballs. Certain establishments in Tokyo have gone that extra step further and included both the Yamazaki and Hakushu 10-year premixed highballs to their servers, which are proving lucrative and continuing to assist in the flourish.  The hot and humid weather throughout Japan in summer could possibly justify these apparatuses, but there is something a little disturbing when you hear a big burly fellow saying “ a pint of torys please”. At this stage there is no evidence to suggest Nikka has or will bring out highball taps, well in the Kansai area anyway, perhaps there are some lurking around Kanto but I haven’t heard of any yet. 

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Nagano Outdoor Whisky Festival 2011

Fill your favourite backpack with all your preferred goodies and head for the hills, the hills of Nagano prefecture to be precise. September 17, which falls on a Saturday, makes way for one pleasant outdoor event that should not be missed. In the town of Nagawa lies an alluring mountain, which transforms into the Blanche Takayama Ski Resort through out the winter. However, during the summer the lush green pastures make way for events such as the Outdoor Whisky Festival 2011. This event, the first of its kind in Japan, provides the perfect opportunity to get in touch with nature while contemplating the smorgasbord of 150 domestic and international whiskies with an all-you-can-drink policy, slightly hard to believe but clearly stated. This policy excludes rare bottlings I’m lead to believe but they are available to purchase by the dram. Information suggests that this is not only an event for the enthusiast but one for the whole family. Under blanketing blue skies throughout the day an array of entertainment can be enjoyed including local food stalls, music, shows, exhibitions, and workshops, while during the cool evening campfires and BBQ’s are on offer for the whole family to experience.


advanced 1,500
on the day 2,000


Nikka Black Tetra Packs

The recent influx of home brand blended whisky hitting the shelves of Japanese supermarkets has inspired me to, when possible, go into each and every supermarket I come across in my local area and enthusiastically report on any new findings. It certainly appears that local supermarkets are a good place to converge on and gather up whisky intelligence of late, which makes sense; supermarkets are at the forefront of promotion and introduce standard bottlings, first-hand to consumers, often before the distillers advertise them themselves. This happened in the case of Black Nikka’s new 1.8 litre tetra pack carton that was introduced to Kansai supermarkets recently before information could officially be seen elsewhere. Adding the 1.8 litre carton to Black Nikka’s existing 16 various sizes is not really all that new as Nikka previously had the same measure in a plastic bottle, which we are all familiar with. However the introduction of the screw top carton that is reminiscent of the production and packaging of Japanese Sochu continually suggests that the popularity of domestic whisky is forever increasing and that supply is strongly in demand. As with the introduction of Suntory’s 300ml Torys (Extra) blend a few months back, these new additions that sprout up are lucratively providing consumers with additional choices suited to their needs or environment.