Dramtastics Japan(whisky) Road Trip April 2013 – Days 11/12/13

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Day 11 and I decided the head back to Bar Hermit Regalo. Why, because when you are on a cheap thing stick to it I say. Basically stuck with 3 of the Ichiro’s Card Series malts they have on their special price list at the moment and one that wasn’t but had always wanted to try. That 4th one was the Ace of Spades 1st release. Even at the regular price of Y2500, this to me was still good value compared to many other bars. This Ace of Spades only had an outrun or 122 bottles so there could not be too many still floating around, at least not open and available at a bar that any adult can walk into off the street. There was a second release Ace of Spades with an outrun of 300 bottles, released in 2006 and bottled at 55.7%.
Tasted:
Ichiro’s Malt Vintage 1986-2007 21YO Hogshead 58%
Ichiro’s Malt Jack of Spades 1990-2007 17YO New Wood Finish #7002 54.2%
Ichiro’s Malt Queens of Diamonds 1985-2007 French Cognac Cask Finish #9109 58.5%
Ichiro’s Malt Ace of Spades 1st Release 1985-2005 20YO Spanish Oak Sherry Butt Finish 55%

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Day 12 had me tidying up my bottle purchases. Had a few pre ordered before I arrived in Japan and there was few more to buy.
So this is what I am taking home and a big shout to my family who are with me and agreed to be whisky mules giving up their own duty free allowances.
2 x Ichiro’s Malt Hanyu 2000-2012 12YO Mizunara Heads Cask for Isetan 59.2%
1 x Yamazaki Single Sherry Cask for Isetan 1998-2011 #CU 70067 61%
1 x Yamazaki Heavily Peated NAS 2013 48%
2 x Karuizawa 12YO OB Hanshin Tigers Label 40%
1 x Karuizawa Colors of 4 Seasons 1st Release 2000-2012 #5329 64.2%
2 x Karuizawa Colors of 4 Seasons 2nd Release 2000-2013 #5173 64.8%
1 x Karuizawa OB 1966 21YO 43%
1 x Karuizawa Memories 1991-2013 21YO Sherry Butt #9106 63.7%
1 x Mars Single Cask 1990-2011 21YO American White Oak #902 64.7%
Not a purchase, but I also was kindly given a 180ml bottle of Yoichi Genshu Sherry and Sweet, Single Cask, Cask Strength.

Day 13 is leaving day. Evening flight back to Australia but we have to head to the airport just after 5pm. As most dedicated whisky bars don’t open until 6pm, whisky drinking for this trip is done and dusted. Hang on, the try before you buy bar at the Isetan department store in Shinjuku opens at 2pm and they have a couple of Single Cask Japanese whiskies available to try that I haven’t tasted before. Maybe enough time to sneak in 2 more………….

Dramtastics Japan(whisky) Road Trip April 2013 – Day 8

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Arrived back in Tokyo from Osaka. Bit tired but there is a number of whisky bars near our digs in Shinjuku so only a short walk for a quality dram. As previously reported I had been to Bar Hermit West earlier this trip. I decided to try Bar Hermit Regalo this time. I knew there was also a Bar Hermit East, but one of the bartenders informed me there is a chain of 6 bars with 4 under the Bar Hermit Banner, all owned by the same person and all located in Shinjuku.
I know that I found the West Bar good value, but to my surprise this was even better for some very rare old Ichiro’s Card Series, Ichiro’s Malt Single casks and the Ichiro’s Malt 20YO. Photo of the list of specials included with the special price in red. As you can see, not much more than the Yamazaki 10 listed on the top right corner. Price list is not inclusive of all their Card Series bottling’s they have more. Also their own range of Suntory Owners Cask bottling’s but a slightly larger range than the West bar. Owners Cask offerings are Y1300 a shot and that price has not changed in 4 years.

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Tasted:
Ichiro’s Malt 5 of Hearts 2000-2008 French Oak Cognac Cask Finish 60%
Ichiro’s Malt Single Cask 2000-2005 American Oak Puncheon #6076 60%
Suntory Owners Cask for Bar Hermit Hakushu Heavily Peated 2000-2010 #EL 41499 62%

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Dramtastics Japan(whisky) Road Trip April 2013 – Day 6

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After far to many Highballs my Japanese whisky in Kansai guide Clint from Whiskies R Us, took me along to Bar Sharom Osaka. This is one of those religious experience bars. A virtual shrine to all things Nikka, my jaw dropped when I walked through the door. It wasn’t the number of bottles, though there were lots of them, it was the sheer quality and rarity of some of the stock. We only had 2 drams but it was the sort of stuff that belongs in the Pantheon of the gods of whisky. Not sure if it’s his usual practice but props to the owner for the volume of his pours which were around 45-50mls. Maybe he just felt sorry for us on spending so much on four drams. : )
Just a note that this was not one of those official Nikka bars but privately owned by a Nikka enthusiast. For directions to the bar please contact Clint from Whiskies R Us.
Tasted:
Yoichi Genshu Malt Sherry Cask #203634 25YO 54%
Yoichi Single Cask 1990-2001 10YO #223639 Warehouse No.2 62%

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Mizuwari Soho London – New Japanese Whisky Bar

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Recently opened in the basement level of Soho Yakitori joint Bincho, Mizuwari is a specialist Japanese whisky bar. My understanding is that they currently have about 40 different bottlings in stock. Not huge, but when you add a menu that includes a range of whisky cocktails and of course Mizuwari, enough to keep most people happy. Mizuwari sells the standard ranges from Suntory and Nikka but also gear from Karuizawa and Hanyu. The owners have also taken a leaf out of a service offered in many bars in Asia. Buy a whole bottle and they will keep it locked away for you until your next visit. Hand chipped ice balls add to the authenticity. Complimentary still water decanted into former Hibiki whisky bottles, contains strips of charcoal to create a softer mouth feel. mizuwara-soho-2
Also great news, if you get the munchies after a few drinks you can order Yakitori skewers from the restaurant upstairs. At the time of writing, prices range from GBP8.50 – 24 a shot, though their own website doesn’t seem to have a comprehensive whisky menu listed yet.

Bar Report – The Whisky Bar KL

the-whisky-bar-klThis was the second time I had visited this whisky bar in Kuala Lumpur Malaysia. The Whisky Bar KL stocks many a Scottish whisky of course, as well as Irish, American(Bourbon) and a small collection of Japanese whiskies. According to their website about 275 different bottling’s in total.
On our first visit we took a whisky novice from  Australia we made friends with at our hotel and we opted for the Japanese whisky tasting set. A nice introduction to a few Japanese standards for someone who had never tasted Japanese whisky before.
On my second visit I was looking for something a little more exotic. After checking out their list of Japanese whiskies online I was looking forward to the following. Hakushu 25, Yamazaki 25, Yamazaki 1984 and Hibiki 30. Now, we had lined up dinner with our friends from OZ who were with us in KL at a restaurant directly across the street which I believe is owned by the same guy as the Whisky Bar. So ordered dinner and I decided to duck over to scope out the whisky offerings I had picked while we waited to be served. This is when it all got a little bit bizarre.
They had no Hibiki 30, which by the way still shows on their current website even though I was told it would be removed to reflect this. I asked about Yamazaki 25, no couldn’t have, even though there was a bottle. Yes there was a bottle of Hakushu 25, so yes, no problem and no, no 1984 Yamazaki at all. I went back to the restaurant resigned and a little disappointed at my lot.
After dinner everyone else took off to the night market and I went back over to the bar. This time with a different staff member. Yes there was a Yamazaki 1984 and I could try, yes they had the Hakushu 25 but the bottle wasn’t open and they weren’t about to for me, too expensive and what if no one else bought a dram, and yes, after I mentioned I wrote about Japanese whisky, they poured me a dram from the already open bottle of Yamazaki 25. Strange and confusing especially when I was spending almost $300 on 3 drams(had a Yama 18 as well). p1000842
At any rate the fact is they do have some Japanese whisky in stock. There is also a few not shown on the online menu such as Nikka Pure Malt White, All Malt, Taketsuru 12, Yoichi 12 and 20. So if you live in Kuala Lumpur and have never tried Japanese Whisky, or, are passing through KL and hankering for a dram, this really is the only game in town. Just be prepared from some weird interactions with the staff.

*This report from a visit in November 2012.

Bar Report – MOD Taipei

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Whenever I travel OS I am always looking for a whisky bar. Sometimes it takes a bit of perserverance and sometimes that doesn’t pay off because there may not be one at all. Just so happens that my research paid off for when we travelled to Taipei in April 2012. On that occasion this is the one we found, MOD. taipei-whisky-1
So what does MOD offer. About 150 whiskies, mostly Scottish, a few Kavalan as we were in the Motherland of that distillery, and as luck would have it about 10 Japanese whiskies. I tried a couple of the standard(non single cask) Kavalan and a few Japanese whiskies. One of the Japanese whiskies was a Taradeshi Genshu Yamazaki, in other words a sold only at the distillery bottle, which was a nice treat. My partner Nicole is not a whisky drinker, but this place has beer, cocktails, other spirits and more on the menu. Just so happens that one of the mixologist’s at MOD was experimenting with a few cocktails as he was entered into the local heats of an Asia wide Bar Tenders contest. I gave him a few guidelines and he whipped up a fantastic concoction with Hibiki 12 as the base. taipei-whisky-2
It was a knockout and for all the purists out there, no, not a waste of good whisky at all.
In summary, staff were nice, prices reasonable, a good selection of whiskies and the place had a great laid back vibe. Only problem, our taxi driver had a devil of a time finding the place. Worth it in the end.

Report Update – The Auld Alliance Singapore

dsc_0387Last month I wrote a report on the other best place in the world to try Japanese whisky, The Auld Alliance Singapore. In that post I reported that Director Emmanuel Dron was actively looking to expand the range and number of Japanese whisky’s offered at the bar. Well that activity has already born fruit with another 40 bottles of Japanese whisky now gracing the walls of the bar. By my calculations, of the total number of whisky’s on ‘display’, about 18% are now Japanese. Considering that total amount equals around 1000 whiskies, that’s a whole lot of Japanese whisky to try. dsc_0389

Certainly worth a pilgrimage for anyone who lives in Asia and a must visit for any Japanese whisky enthusiast passing through Singapore for a few days or even a night as the Auld Alliance is an easy 5-10 minute taxi ride for most hotels in Singapore. Great to see the likes of Akashi, Mars, Waketsuru and Chita now added to the list of offerings. Enjoy some mouth water photo’s.

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Bar Report – The Auld Alliance Singapore

p1000968Last weekend I made my second visit to The Auld Alliance Singapore, one of the greatest whisky bars in the world and of even greater significance to Japanese whisky fans, one of the 2 best places in the world to try Japanese whisky.
Celebrating it’s second anniversary, The Auld Alliance is the dream become reality of Director/Manager Emmanuel Dron. Previous to opening The Auld Alliance, Emmanuel worked in other areas of the whisky biz for around 15 years. More about Emmanuel further down the post but for the moment I’ll comment a little more on the bar itself.

p1000971The Auld Alliance is located at Chijmes, a restored historic building housing bars and restaurants situated diagonally across the street from Raffles Hotel. Visually The Auld Alliance is stunning. The site of over 1000 whiskies beautifully laid out behind a classic style of bar is quite something to behold . There is a separate lounge area to the left of the bar with Chesterfields to relax in, more rare bottles to ogle at and a small library of whiskey books. To the right of the bar is another area housing two private enclosed rooms for those who wish to enjoy their whisky with a select group of family or friends. Also handy for those who enjoy a fine cigar with their whisky as these are also dedicated smoking areas.

p1000972So plenty available for most whisky fans, but what if you have tried over a thousand whiskies already? No need to worry, Emmanuel is constantly seeking out rare bottlings to add to, or, replace the ones already stocked. For instance, there was at least 5 new Karuizawa’s available since my last visit 7 months ago. So, lets focus on the Japanese ‘stuff’ available to try. Normally there at least 140 bottlings. Lots of Karuizawa, Ichiro’s Malt Cards, Single Cask Yoichi, Miyagikyo, Yamazaki and Hakushu as well as a number of ‘standards’. p1000974New stock on it’s way will include offerings from Akashi, Waketsuru and Mars Shinshu. More good news is that we’ll also be seeing more Japan only releases stocked in the future such as the Suntory Owners Cask series and other rarities. Obviously some of the bottlings can cost a bit for a dram, but The Auld Alliance offers half shots to help keep the cost down and least give you the opportunity to try a couple for those on a budget. Going with a friends or family who don’t drink whisky? The Auld Alliance also offers rum, wine, champagne, beer, cocktails and more.

p1000973So, back to Emmanuel Dron the Director/Manager of The Auld Alliance. You could not find a more affable, knowledgeable host. Emmanuel is never static. You will seeing him constantly checking on patrons as to their well being, answering questions and offering advice. As a man of egalitarian tastes, Emmanuel is just as likely to recommend an Irish whiskey, a real passion of his, or Japanese whisky. This open minded, unbiased approach, is extremely refreshing. Having had the opportunity to chat with Emmanuel on a few occasions now, I can say that he is a true whisky enthusiast, not just a business man making a living from whisky.
So, if you are going to Singapore and you have even a passing interest in whiskey or a student of history, The Auld Alliance is a must visit.