Monday, January 28, 2013

A Blast From Suntory's Advertising Past - Suntory Old

The Sun (Japanese: “Taiyo”), established in 1963 was a popular household magazine throughout Japan that focused on aesthetic subjects. The nationwide magazine, which had some famed editors on board throughout its history delved on themes both locally and internationally. The publication has not officially ceased production but it’s no longer in print. However, besides the old version of The Sun, which can still be found in plenty throughout various used book stores, a sibling has emerged: Bettsusatsu Taiyo (another series).

The original magazine introduced cultural related topics, but perhaps the most notable focal point of the publication was the extensive photography and advertisements - in particular whisky adverts. One of the major players on the marketing scene at The Sun, given the period, was Suntory (circa 1973); “Suntory Old” was heavily promoted and established as the affordable brand of choice among the marketing catch copy.

We have seen some classic Japanese whisky ads in the past, but these eye-catching ads are arguably unique as they capture the essence of Japan - culture, customs, and culinary creations. It is intriguing what companies once thought would entice punters to purchase their products. Take a look at these accumulated ads and reflect on the bygone era of promotion: Kotobuki - “longevity of life”, perhaps a clever marketing ploy and play of words incorporating the original founding name of Suntory in 1921.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Stocking Your Home Bar with Affordable Japanese Whiskies: 2013 Round-up

As seen on Whiskies R Us in 2011 – adding Japanese whisky to your home bar or collection does not have to be pricey. There has been a flourish of very expensive and collectable Japanese whiskies to hit the market in the last few years; some are well worth every cent, while some are arguably over-hyped, over priced, and generally out of reach financially for the average drinker on a budget. However, there are many affordable mainstream Japanese whiskies (providing you are residing in or visiting the country - if not unfortunately add on shipping costs) that wont burn a hole in your pocket, which are fun, very approachable, and suitable for both novice and experienced drinkers. 

You can get a variety of quality Japanese whiskies including single malts, pure malts (blended malts), and blends to delight in for under 10,000 yen ($112/EUR84). For 2013, Whiskies R Us suggests considering (in view of quality and quantity - for those looking to fill up shelves) the following inexpensive and very adequate drams to enjoy if you are on a budget. Of course, if money isn’t an issue the options are endless when considering the mid to high end categories, something that WRU may also approach and recommend (personal favourites), in a playful way. Stay tuned.

What would you buy taking into account the budget of 10,000 yen with the objective of no-less than five bottles?

Whiskies R Us Selection:

1: Suntory Yamazaki no-age single malt - 350ml - 1,750 yen
2: Nikka From The Barrel blend - 500ml - 1,780 yen
3: Nikka Pure Malt Black blended malt - 500ml - 1,480 yen
4: Nikka Miyagikyo no-age single malt - 500ml - 1,380 yen
5: Nikka Sendai Date blend - 700ml - 2,980 yen

Total: 9,370 JPY / 78 EUR / 105 USD

(Prices may very depending on area)
Note: Nikka From The Barrel and Pure Malt Black are current prices at Bic Camera.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Nikka Date Blended Whisky

ABV: 43% - Whisky type: blend - Coffey malt and grain - Miyagikyo/Sendai local bottling - Age: no-age-statement

Nose: Intriguing. Fruit tingles, ripe fresh figs, pomegranate like quality, juicy fruit gum, spicy passion fruit, creamy vanillic peat, and wood spice (incense). Water emphasizes lemon in both a hot tea form as well as desert: lemon meringue pie. Initially when poured a white spirit note rolls of the surface but this quickly vanishes leaving nothing but pleasantries.

Taste: Sensational. Cereals, plain golden brown toast, Arnott's milk coffee biscuits, minerals, juicy fruit gum, lovely structured peat, creamy vanilla, and smoky grain with a sprinkle of white pepper. Water releases heather honey and oddly but welcoming Fisherman’s friends originals (anise), and moderate pickled ginger, which interplay with bitterness (dark chocolate). Great balanced blend.

Finish: Spicy juicy fruit gum, bitter chocolate, creamy peat, bitter passion fruit skins with a sprinkle of white pepper.

Comment: Lovely interplay between malt and grain - an exceptional blend. This blend that retails roughly around 3,000 yen has become my daily dram. I haven't been able to stop my self continually getting amongst it since I received it for a Christmas present, which I’m very thankful for. Interestingly the current (new version) Date, in my opinion, has much more character than some of the older Date releases (black label in 500ml bottlings). Experiment with water, in my opinion the right amount makes this blend shine (not too much - nor not too little) I'm organizing my second bottle now as we speak. For another perspective of this lovely blend take at look Dramtastic's review over at The Japanese Whisky Review.

Reviewed by Clint A

Friday, January 11, 2013

White Oak Akashi Single Malt - Aged 14 Years

Non chill filtered - Non coloured - ABV: 58% - Cask strength - White wine finish - Batch #1 - Outturn: 400 bottles

Nose: Pleasantly meaty (oddly reminds me of silverside), day old fireplace ash, dusty dried leaves , fermented black soy beans, and singed cut grass (mulch). Things then take an interesting turn with a bit of time: rocky road, suggestions of raspberry cordial roll of the rim of the glass occasionally, red gum honey (as with the NAS), and trademark burnt rubber (present in the NAS/5-yo). Complex stuff. Water emphasizes sweet honey, fortified wine (sherry) and a distinctive Shea butter note.

Taste: Extremely warming. Follows suit with the nose: black fermented soy beans, burnt rubber, and fireplace ash. The mulch like quality is evident, but also lovely black breakfast tea, and again fortified wine. Water turns up the level of tyre smoke and Shea butter.

Finish: Follows the palate, not necessarily in order - black fermented soy beans and burnt rubber with moderate to long sherry.

Comment: My favourite out of White Oaks line-up, which has nothing to do with age, but the sheer complexity and great balance. It's said that the distillery's oldest expression to date will be released this year - looking forward to it, along with getting around to trying batch 2 of this 14-yo. For some further insight into Eigashima - White Oak take a look here. For another great perspective of this take a look at Dramtastic's Akashi 14-yo review over at The Japanese Whisky Review.

Reviewed by Clint A

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Finding Paradise in Umeda

For those looking for “Paradise” amongst the Mecca of Osaka this has to be on the “must visit” list of priorities. One of the very few jewels in the city, this bar is very much on the pulse, rare Scotch whiskies are dominant at this very homely bar, however, there is a very decent and carefully selected array of Japanese whiskies to get excited about, arguably many of which you will not find any where else. Bar Paradis; French for “Paradise”, basically started from the owner’s extensive personal collection. The owner, which is always casually dressed, started this hobby like bar with an extensive range of whiskies. These accumulated gems built a reputation and loyal fans in search of something different.

“The master” at Bar Paradis lives and breathes whisky, a walking encyclopedia if you like, which is the way it should be. Throw a Scotch or Japanese whisky related question at him and it will be promptly answered. Perhaps one of the most appealing aspects about this place, besides the mouthwatering Japanese expressions, is the owner is basically a guy who shares the same passion as his customers. This is also visually evident with bottles and books displayed throughout the bar.

Bar Paradis is small so it may pay for anyone wishing to visit to arrive early and secure a seat at the casual and homely bar, which is cluttered, but in a very welcoming way, with all sorts of bottles. Half shots are quite acceptable, be sure to ask, for some of the hardcore whiskies, given some of the prices, a half shot is visible. However, if funds are endless, as they say, “the world is your oyster”. This is definitely a place for the novice or expert. There is no bar snobbery here. This is the first bar introduction at Whiskies R Us for 2013, one that you will not find any in book, for now, and one which I highly recommend. When funds are available I will be making this place a regular stop off.

Taiyo Bldg. Nishigawa 2F
Sonezaki 2-1-6, Kita-ku, Osaka

Phone: 06-6362-0203
Open: 6:30pm ~ past midnight
Closed: every third Sun/Mon

(8 min walk from JR Umeda station / 3 min walk from Dai 3 building Umeda)

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

New Year - New Whisky Horizons

All in all, it was an exciting and great year for the Japanese whisky industry in 2012. Numerous goals and results were achieved by all the players; both large and small, and let’s not forget the array of new bottlings that were introduced last year that feed the addiction of Japanese whisky enthusiasts throughout the globe including the domestic front. The industry is doing all the right things and this is evident in the continuing and increased enthusiasm of the nation's distilled spirit. Exciting times can only continue to be had. Just as we have seen in the past, this New Year (2013) shows promise of a flourish of new expressions to hit the market and not only by the big guns of the game. We can expect to see the rising potential of both the White Oak Distillery - Eigashima and the Mars Distillery - Hombo Shuzo, plus some further creative and artisan single malt expressions with added age from the Chichibu Distillery - Venture Whisky (Akuto Ichiro). Expect this year to be full of surprises and exciting news that I look forward to, as much as possible, independently share.

Whiskies R Us, which was solely created at the beginning of 2011, has reached its third year on the blog scene. The blog, which is not sponsored in anyway will continue to supply readers with informal articles, reviews, personal experiences, and general enlightenment into the world of Japanese whisky.

Perhaps this is a good opportunity to thank all the readers of Whiskies R Us. The great encouragement I receive from you all is always appreciated, which I believe has allowed my personal writing ability to become that little bit more expressive than it once used to be when the blog first kicked-off. The large amount of page views the blog receives monthly is a good indication I'm doing something right...I hope, however, along with the new year I feel it’s time to equally add something new to Whiskies R Us. Last year saw the new addition of the creative logo (above), a vast improvement on the old one I must say, and the introduction of "Treasure Troves". This year, I plan to introduce a few more new themes of equal interest. I won't spill all the beans at once, but amongst a few things I'll be focusing on this year are more posts on whisky bars in Kansai that you won't find in any English written drinks (whisky) book, such as The Court, and if you ever do you can be sure to have seen it first at WRU. It's time to also head out and give Kyoto the recognition it deserves, there are some tremendous establishments that have been overlooked, and to be honest I need to venture to the city much more than I do.

Another new feature, which is possibly overdue, is the new "Seal of Approval". Some of you who regularly view WRU would have already noticed that on a few occasions whisky reviews (pictures), such as the Hakushu Heavily Peated 2012 and Chichibu Chibidaru Shinanoya Private Cask have been uploaded with the blogs logo. This is a very informal accreditation that simply demonstrates personal preferences and likings of whiskies I have "reviewed and playfully approved". If a review does not sport the logo it does not necessarily mean the whisky mentioned is of bad quality but one which quite simply didn't tickle my fancy enough in comparison. On the same token, and at the end of the day, just like with point scoring, this style of personal acceptance should not be used heartily when making your own choices and whisky purchases.

Happy New Year....Cheers!