The organizers of Nagoya’s whisky festival, in only its second year, should congratulate themselves on a tremendously successful event, which saw more than 3,000 people attend.
Suntory had a major presence, with Chief Blender Shinji Fukuyo in attendance. He gave us tastes of three soon-to-be released limited editions: Yamazaki 12-year Heavily Peated, Chita 16-year (the final four years in a red wine cask), and Hakushu 4-year Rye. The labels are beautifully designed, with highly stylized kanji (Chinese characters) written by a leading calligrapher (the artist who created the Hibiki design). Fukuyo-san offered me a taste of each, and also scribed for me the kanji in his own hand. The meanings of the characters are: Origin for Yamazaki, Play for Hakushu, Dream for Chita.
Nikka, as expected, had a selection of its current range, including Coffey Malt, Coffey Grain, Black Aromatic, as well as Yoichi and Miyagikyo no-age statement expressions. For aged Nikka, customers had to go to the independent stands, where you could sample for example this 18-year single cask Yoichi.
Ichiro’s Malt offered tastings of its full range of Leaf Series, The Peated, and IPA Cask, along with straight-from-the-barrel 6+ year Madeira cask number 1372 (62.9% ABV) and blended cask number 4138 (60.1% ABV). Additionally, independent stands offered a range of older Ichiro’s releases, both Hanyu and Chichibu. Fukuoka’s legendary bar owner Oka-san brought a few Card Series bottles all the way from Kyushu. The Seven of Clubs was a particular crowd favorite.
Independent distillers had a strong presence, with Nagahama, Asaka, and Akkeshi all offering tantalizing new-pot spirits.
Among Japanese distillers, only Eigashima (Akashi) failed to make an appearance but some of their single cask expressions were available to taste at independent stands. Of note is famed Japanese whisky collector Yamaoka-san’s selection, Akashi cask number 61191 (Cognac cask 5 years 7 months, Chardonnay cask 8 months, 50% ABV, 471 bottles) with a label designed to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the manga Otsuka Matsumoto.
It was the independents that really delivered the goods. More than twenty bars and whisky clubs had stands offering tastings of outrageously rare bottles at outrageously reasonable prices. A single cask Yamazaki Mizunara 23-year old. Yep. Prohibition-era bourbons from the likes of Rossville and Dougherty’s? Yep. More scotch than Oliver Reed could drink in a decade? Yep.
Leading bars, including South Park, Kitchen, Finch, Parkmore and many more, brought so many exquisite bottles. Here’s just a small selection to whet your appetite.
Bourbon fans were treated to a vast choice of old bottles, besides Prohibition bottles, when whiskey lovers needed a quack’s prescription, there were amazing bottles from the 1960s to 1980s from Colonel Taylor, I.W. Harper, and many more. Four leading bourbon bars offered bottles: Gemor, Anki, Juunen, and Rogin.
The official bottles of the event were doing a brisk trade, the Asta Morris Ben Nevis 16-year being my pick of the bunch.
There were plenty of tasty food options, from burgers to chicken wings. Miso oden, the Nagoya specialty of steamed local vegetables in a miso broth, was a real winner among the huge crowd.
Once again, congratulations to the organizers on putting on a fantastic event. The whisky community cannot wait for next year’s festival.
The next event in the Japanese whisky festival calendar is the Chichibu Whisky Festival on Sunday 18th February. Tickets are already sold out and none will be available on the day.
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