Every Japanese whisky enthusiast blocks out the third weekend of June for one of the best events in the calendar: Whisky Talk Fukuoka. And this year no-one was disappointed!
As has become customary over the past year, new make was prevalent. Kanosuke, the newest whisky distillery in Kagoshima, and until now primarily a shochu-maker, offered four kinds of new spirit for tasting, plus a 200 ml bottle for sale at JPY2,900. Under the Yamazakura brand name, Asaka Distillery (Sasanokawa Shuzo) of Fukushima Prefecture, also offered a range of new born and new pot spirits, from JPY1,800 to 6,000.
Hombo Shuzo brought a range of Mars whiskies and seemingly everyone’s favorite, Ichiro’s Malt, brought samples of Peated and Bourbon Barrel, plus their core range of IPA and the full Leaf Series.
Speaking of Series from Ichiro’s Malt, there isn’t much left of the Card Series any more. Of course there are still some bars in the countryside of Japan where we at Japan Whisky Tours take our guests for those (and Yamazaki 50-year!), but those shall remain nameless! The Precious Whisky Bar at Fukuoka did however offer the Three of Clubs for just JPY1,400. Indeed the vintage bar had some killer prices on other tastings: how about JPY200 for an old Ichiro’s Malt Floor Malted or JPY300 for Kirin Malt 18year, plus great prices on classic scotch.
Al always there were tremendous offerings from independents including Whisk-E, Japan Import System, e-Power, Acorn, Gaia Flow and more.
At the Tokyo International Bar Show in May, Shinanoya surprised many guests by offering no whisky, just other spirits, but they were back on top whisky form here in Fukuoka.
The Lakes Distillery in Cumbria has been getting a lot of press following an oversubscribed crowdfunding campaign. They are about to a new Anglo-Scottish blend Steel Bonnets with a Robin Hood hat logo.
Sadly, but not unexpectedly, there was little of note from the Grandees of Japanese whisky, Suntory and Nikka. In their booth, Beam Suntory offered no Yamazaki, Hakushu or Chita, unlike at Nagoya Whisky Lovers in January and Tokyo Bar Show in May. Nikka offered their regular, great value for money Coffey Malt and Coffey Grain, along with the brands they import. Kirin offered tastings of their Fuji-Sanroku and Rich Grain whiskies. Incidentally, Fuji 18-year Small Batch 2018 is pretty much the only age statement Japanese whisky available these days.
As in previous years, there were seminars from Yamaoka-san, Bob Stockwell and Yumi Yoshikawa. An added bonus this year was an English language seminar from Yoshikawa-san and Sumiyoshi-san of Bar Leichardt, Fukuoka.
For the first time, there was a huge gin presence with a third floor room devoted to Japanese gins.
A newcomer to Japanese whisky festivals was Whisky Enlightenment, which presented artisanal glasses from Poland (Amber Glass), whisky selections from Shanty Shack and Aloha Whisky, and the announcement of the forthcoming Yokohama Whisky Festival (to be held on 27th October 2019), which will make a fantastic addition to the calendar. (Disclosure: I am a friend of the Founder and Chair of the organization).
Overall, it was another superb edition of this unstoppable event.