As mentioned in my Bourbon Safari in Japan post, I recently returned from Japan where I had the opportunity to sample, enjoy, and buy some nice Japanese whisky.
The first stop on my Japanese whisky safari was at the Yamazaki distillery in Osaka Prefecture, where I took the standard free tour (in Japanese). We were given some free Suntory tumblers and allowed to sample Hibiki 17(blended whisky), Yamazaki 12(single malt), and Hokuto 12(vatted).
After I went to their bar, where you can order just about every whisky (if available), young and old, produced by Suntory. Infact, it is a great place to do your own vatting if you wish. I decided to order Hibiki 21 (very nice!) and 1986 Sherry Wood Single Malt (yum!). In hind sight I should have ordered more, but there's always next year's trip.
Finally after enjoying the drams and touring the Suntory museum I picked up some Hibiki 17 (50.5) 50ml and a Yamazaki Select Malt sampler set.
The second stop on my Japanese was to Nikka's Blender's Bar in Tokyo. I would have rather visited their Yoichi distillery in Hokaido, but it was too far out of the way this trip. Instead I settled on having several drinks at the Blender's Bar in Aoyama. The bartender was great and kept pouring me samples of different bottles I wasn't sure about. The drink menu is extensive and took a while for me to decide.
I ended up drinking:
<ul type="square"> Yoichi Single Malt 10yr: This was very nice and I plan to pick it up in the future. It's fairly easy to find in Japanese Liquor shops.
Yoichi Single Malt 15yr: This was also very nice and similar to the 10 yr. I'd need to drink it again to tell the differences.
Yoichi Single Cask 10yr: I really like this and was luckily able to buy a ml at the bar. I'll post my tasting notes in the future.
New Pot Yoichi and Miyagikyo: Both are unaged and have a unique flavor. The Miyagikyo tasted similar to a barley shochu (Japanese distilled spirit).
Key Malt Yoichi 12years "Sherry&Sweet": The name says it all. My wife thought it was too sweet and heavy. I felt it was a tight, but liked it much better with a bit of water. The water opened it up. Similar to a Macallan.
Key Malt Yoichi 12 year "Woody & Vanillic": Lots of vanilla and some nice notes of wood. Simple, but enjoyable.
70th Aniversary Master Blender's Blend (blending of Yoichi Single Malt 12yr, Miyagikyo Single Malt 12yr, and Single Coffey Grain 12 yr): This was VERY nice and had a lot going on. If I had the funds I'd pick up a bottle.[/list]
Aside from sampling Nikka Whisky, I was able to have a conversaton (with the help of my wife) with the bartender about whisky consumption in Japan. The bartender explained that older Japanese prefer whisky on the rocks and younger Japanese prefer it neat. I found this interesting because I believe in the U.S. it's the opposite. I have no data, just my observations.
The Japanese whisky safari was great and I can't wait for my next one. As some of you already know, there is some great whisky being made in Japan, but because it's on such a small scale it's difficult to find it outside Japan.
If anyone has anything to add about Japanese whisky, please do so. While this is mainly a bourbon board, it seems some minor discussion about Japanese whisky might be fun.