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