The November 2016 Japan Whisky Experience leaves so many beautiful memories, from the amazing whiskies we tasted, to the astonishing cities and towns we visited, but we all agree that the Japanese hospitality leaves the strongest impression.
Soon after arrival, we headed to one of my favorite bars in Ginza to taste a range of outstanding SMWS releases of Japanese whiskies, including Hanyu, Karuizawa and numerous scotch expressions.
Day two focused on the Whisky Festival Tokyo 2016 at Sunshine City, Ikebukuro. Besides a superb range of scotch and Japanese whiskies, there were some astonishing bourbons (including Pappy Van Winkle 23, Hirsch 17, and Very Olde St Nick 24) courtesy of the Milwaukee’s Club and Ken’s Bar booths. And a free sample of the normally $800 Michter’s 20-year was also a treat.
Day three saw us set off early to the Miyagikyo Distillery. After enjoying a tour of the distillery and tasting a wide range of Nikka products, we all did some serious spending in the shop, stocking up on rarities such as Miyagikyo 2000s and Sherry & Sweet.
The evening was spent at favorite bars in Sendai, where the hospitality was flawless, a perfect example of omotenashi (the Japanese art of hospitality).
Tuesday took us to Osaka, where we spent many pleasurable hours at off-the-beaten-track whisky bars with truly staggering selections of old bottles.
Wednesday was chock-a-block with a visit to the Yamazaki Distillery, which included an epic tasting of Hibiki 30, Yamazaki 25, and Sherry Casks from Yamazaki and Hakushu, amongst others. After an impromptu visit to the Suntory Malt’s Brewery, we headed into Kyoto, where we spent several hours at Minoru Nishida’s K6. The evening closed at Rocking Chair, whose manager just won the coveted Best Bartender in the World Award for his incredible concoctions.
Keeping up the fast pace, Thursday saw us hit up Golden Gai, in particular the original location of Ken’s Bar, where we enjoyed a vast range of the rarest bourbons from Van Winkle, Very Olde St Nick, and Old Man Winter.
The last of our distillery visits took place on Friday, saving the best for last: Ichiro’s Malt in Chichibu. As I mentioned before on this website, Venture Whisky gives complete access to its facilities, allowing visitors to see the full production process up close, including the mashing, fermentation, and distillation. Nosing the head, heart and tail of the distillate gave us a true understanding of the skills of a master distiller.
The week ended with a visit to some of my favorite bars, where we sampled the likes of Yamazaki 50, The Joker Color and Monochrome and vintage Suntory and Nikka whiskies from the 1980s and 1990s.
The next tour will be held in February 2017. Please contact me ASAP at firstname.lastname@example.org to reserve your place.