Thursday, March 29, 2012

Mars 3&7 Blended Whisky 39% abv

Nose: Light, green apple skins, marzipan, and sandalwood. After a relatively long and patient wait notes of flat cola, watery lime icy poles (home brands), dusty floorboards, and oak are present.

Taste: Watery, again marzipan, sweet spice, and subtle oak.

Finish: Extremely short with sweet spice and an overdue hint of fennel and oak.

Comment: At 39 percent, and with its initial light and watery notes, obviously adding water to this blend is strictly not needed. A lot of people have different opinions on warming up malt, at times I agree, but with this blend I believe it is necessary. Give this time and let it open up. Lets not forget though, at 1200 yen a bottle you get what you pay for. In my opinion this blend could have so much more potential if bottled at a higher strength, regardless it’s well worth trying. The current Mars distillery owned by Hombo Shuzo is nestled seemingly 798 meters above sea level, amongst the Alps of Mt.Komagatake, and the distillery’s high quality water source is drawn from 129m below ground level. The “three” refers to grain whisky aged for three years while the “seven” refers to the use of seven-year-old malt.

Reviewed by Clint A

A Great Addition to the Whisky Information Scene in Japan

Tokyo Whisky Hub, created by Stefan, is a new blog to hit the scene with warm welcoming. It is a very interesting blog about, as the title obviously suggests…whisky, which focuses on the Tokyo drinking scene. Stefan explains his vision for the site in an introductory post at Nonjatta, which he has also recently teamed up with and will be cross-posting entries specifically on Japanese whisky. Stefan’s posts are great reads and certainly a great addition to the whisky information scene here in Japan.

Friday, March 23, 2012

New Chichibu Bottling to be Released

Nonjatta has posted some very interesting information on yet another Chichibu release. “The Floor Malted” bottling, which is scheduled to be available around March 26, and is set to carry an approximate price tag of 9,000 yen. The exciting information describes the making and process behind the new bottling. An excellent read. In addition The Whisky Wall has also posted about the types of casks used to produce this whisky, which I’m sure will be on everyone’s mind over the weekend.

Suntory Highball Bar - Umeda 1923

The year 1923 was a remarkable year in Japan, construction of the Yamazaki distillery, Japan’s first malt whisky distillery, began in Yamazaki on the outskirts of Kyoto. The birth of this distillery was to mark the first step toward the production of a long-running delicacy that is well received today: Japanese whisky.

In order to commemorate this significant milestone and to build upon the forever growing highball market, Suntory set its mind on a new business development; the humbled Highball Bar. The first of these themed bars was opened in January 2011 in Tokyo’s Shimbashi district. Using the iconic date and location: the Highball Bar Shimbashi 1923 was born, further boosting the growth of the highball market and paving the way to what appears to be a successful business adventure for Suntory.

The Highball Bars are in various locations throughout Japan, so if you are looking for a bit of nostalgia, and whisky highballs are your preferred nectar, Kansai residents have the opportunity to visit one of these specialty themed bars right in the heart of Osaka. The Umeda 1923 Highball Bar offers a variety of highball cocktails that go beyond the heavily publicized Kakubin and soda concoction, these highball cocktails, which Suntory market as premium quality are served from specially designed dispensers developed by the distillery giant.

Besides the ideal location, the experience, the wide range of highball flavours, and nostalgia: bygone Suntory whisky advertisements, perhaps the biggest standout, in my opinion, are the cheap proportions of single malt that are available neat. These themed bars do require a cover charge of 300 yen, which I personally try to avoid however; this cover charge can be easily justified by scoffing down a variety of mixed nuts and rice crackers included in the charge and with the “all you can eat” policy. The establishment is adjacent to Yodibashi camera and is within a few minutes walk from either the JR or Hankyu Umeda stations.

Umesendo building 1F,
2-1-3, Shibata, Kita-ku,
Osaka-shi, Osaka, 530-0012

Opening Hours – Daily
Lunch: Mon – Sun and holidays 11:30 – 15:00
Evening: Mon – Sat 17:00 – 01:00, Sun and holidays 17:00 – 24:00


Map obtained from Gurunabi

Friday, March 16, 2012

Ichiro's Malt Single Cask No. 5722

Ichiro’s Malt Single Cask - Distillery: Hanyu - Cask No. 5722 - Distilled: 1991 - Bottled: 2011 - Age: 20-year-old - ABV: 58.2 percent

Nose: Creamy and sweet. Tinned apricot syrup, figs, macaroons, chocolate éclairs, must sticks, a hint of lavender, and Perilla: an Asian plant of the mint family used in traditional culinary. The addition of water brings out a pleasant waft of rhubarb and custard, a distant note of wet, uncut leather.

Taste: A creamy, sweet delight: cold, homemade custard straight from the fridge with a caramelized skin. Diced dried figs, and cookie dough. Water brings out ground almonds, fennel, and cinnamon. This malt had all the trademarks of Hanyu: refined Japanese whisky.

Finish: Moderate, lingering sweet spice with a custard finale.

Comments: Lovely. Sophisticated and certainly stands out.

Reviewed by Clint A

Friday, March 9, 2012

Ichiro's Malt Eight of Clubs

Distilled: 1988 - Bottled: 2011 - Age: 23-year- old - Cask: 7100 - First cask: hogshead - Second cask: American oak puncheon - Bottle number: 143/561 - ABV: 57.5%

Nose: Such a peculiar assortment: baked turnips, balsamic vinegar, feta cheese, red licorice, plywood, banana chips, red skin lollies, and a faint merlot aroma. Vegetal: baby leaf and rocket leave. After 5 minutes an earthy smell breaks through.

Taste: An initial explosion of spice upfront. Excessively peppered cauliflower, heavily char grilled green capsicum skins, red licorice, and balsamic vinegar. A fresh, non-lit cigar mouthfeel. The addition of water enhances the spice further and creates a sensation of a baked turnip coated in salt and pepper.

Finish: Short-medium, big bang of white pepper witch switches between the combinations of red licorice and again balsamic vinegar. What’s that pleasant finale after moderate length: mouthfeel of a Montecristo?

Comment: Initially I didn’t think too much of this whisky. I originally considered it to be a Joker (pun intended) out of the card series. I certainly couldn’t justify its price tag of approximately 19,000 yen (depending on where sold) and I still do have doubts. That is only my opinion. However, it has become to grow on me, chameleon like qualities: ability to change in aroma and taste. I’m actually looking forward to my next dram.

Reviewed by Clint A

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Taketsuru's Pure Malt Addition

Asahi Breweries Ltd., the owners of the Nikka Whisky Distilling Company have recently announced the new edition of the 500ml Taketsuru 12-year old pure malt whisky to their existing lineup, which consists of the 700ml/180ml/50ml varieties. The new 500ml bottle will be available nation wide from Tuesday, March 27. A press release from Asahi states that they have added the new 500ml bottle to their lineup to give consumers various options when considering volume, price, and ease of mobility. Whisky produced in 500ml bottles is a great option in my opinion for obvious reasons: the ability to move your whisky around easily, possibly less oxidation after opening before consumption, and basically a 500ml bottle is less of a waste than a 700ml bottle if heaven for bid you didn’t like what you bought. This announcement is very reminiscent of Suntory’s addition to their Tory’s lineup in the past.

Image obtained from Asahi's official press release.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Takashimaya Department Store - Namba

Competing against one of many large department stores throughout Osaka is Takashimaya. Situated conveniently at the Namba station and within the vicinity of Bic Camera, the store has an abundance of goods and numerous floors, including a selection of whisky in the basement. Scotch and Japanese whiskies are both available here; Scotch being more dominant in terms of selection. In comparison to other Takashimaya department stores, and only in my opinion, I found the department store to be a little bland and compact this time around regarding Japanese whisky. However, there are some impressive bottles available such as the Taketsuru 35-year-old, Hakushu 25-year-old, Hibiki 30-year-old, and amongst this a few Ichiro’s Malt expressions (excluding the card series). Namba is a Mecca for shopping, unfortunately not for whisky, but it will certainly pay to visit the Takashimaya department store if in need of a decent bottle.

5-1-5 Namba Chuo-ku Osaka-shi Osaka


Opening hours
7 days a week: 10:00AM~8:00PM


Monday, March 5, 2012

Megastore Galore - Owner's Cask Lineup

Namba, Osaka is home to quite a few intriguing stores which stock a variety of assorted goods from quirky trinkets to unique fashion. On any given day hordes of people can walk the long arcades in search of a bargain or that unique item, which will distinguish themselves from others. Unfortunately liquor shops are nowhere to be seen amongst the array of retail establishments within the vicinity, but this doesn’t mean liquor, in particular whisky cannot be obtained. Bic Camera, five minutes away from Namba station, is a well-known mega chain store of electric devices. Not only an array of the latest electronics can be acquired here but also an assortment of Japanese whisky is available, in particular a reasonable offering of “The Owner’s Cask” expressions from Yamazaki (pictured above).  Pricing is quite reasonable in my opinion, and I’m lead to believe visitors to Japan can receive a further 5 percent off the given price (excluding tax) when producing their passport. 


2-10-1, Sennichimae, Chuo-ku, Osaka

Opening Hours
7 days a week: 10:00AM-9:00PM


Thursday, March 1, 2012

The Experience of a Lifetime - Yamazaki 50

For the adventurous, and lets face it, for those who are able to splash some cash without worry, may be interested to learn that the Yamazaki distillery on the outskirts of Kyoto are offering the chance to sip their 50 year-old expression. The chance to literally sip this highly rated expression however comes at a price. 10mls of this nectar will set you back 15,000 yen (approx. 139 Euros/ 185 USD) at the distillery’s tasting bar, which I was informed was not announced publicly. The 50 year-old Yamazaki expressions, regardless of which bottling, is the most expensive Japanese whisky to date either by bottle or per shot. One could argue that 15,000 yen spent on 10mls of whisky is ludicrous, but if you were to consider that in the past a proper full measure of this has sold for 90,000 yen (approx. 1,100 USD) its anything but. I guess another practical way to justify the pricing is to treat it as a once in a lifetime experience. If this is an experience you have on your cards, and for those who can, my advice would be to head on down to the distillery without further ado, as the liquid is limited, even for the distillery

Photo courtesy of Ryo - thank you.