soo I’ve always been a scotch/bourbon/rum/tequila drinker. I’d had a few japanese whiskeys in the past that I thought were exceptional but thought they were priced too high. Now it seems like scotch has had aggressive price increases in the past few years but the Japanese whiskeys haven’t kept pace so now they seem compelling based on price/quality.
I love 'em. About two years ago, I did a dinner featuring Japanese whiskeys. Was a great experience to work with them and riff off the flavors to make what I called “Re-Mizakaya.”
A great one to start with is the Nikka Coffey Grains which seems to have wide distribution in the US. It is very different than its peers or Bourbon or whisky.
Nikka Coffey Grain for my palate is easiest drinking whiskey on the market
i’m just here to learn…carry on.
btw, Saul please post here more often.
All three listed at the end are special. I am finding my preferences leaning more toward Japanese whisky these days. There is something cleaner and brighter about them. Even the 10 or 12 Yoichi has a clarity of flavor that I don’t find in Scotch. Tho to be fair, I think it has more to do with my Scotch-buying friends getting ever more esoteric and I may just be missing the straightfoward nature of when I used to drink Macallan.
As said above, the Coffey Grains is one of the smoothest drinks going. It disappears in my house and we don’t drink whisky a lot.
Another fun one - available a d-free almost everywhere - is Nikka “From the Barrel.” A nicely priced starter Japanese whisky.
On the baller end is Hibiki 21 which is quite simply one of the best I have ever had. It has become very hard to find though, I think.
Had the Nikka 21 the other night. It was very nice.
Overall my opinion of Japanese whisky has changed dramatically over the years. Three to five years ago many of the products in my market, or in the major markets I visited, were harsh or boring. I feel like there has been a change in character and a large overall growth.
Agree on hibiki 21. Goes in and out of availability. Was pretty widely available a month or two ago and now a little less. Usually $250-300. Coffey grain is still my go to for Japanese but find myself mostly drinking US whisky these days.
There is definitely some great stuff out there at all price levels, but I have trouble stomaching the way prices have shot up. Part of that is fashion, and the fact that the Taiwan buyers in particular love the gorgeous labels, and there’s also the very sad fact that a lot of the stocks were stored along the coast and were lost in the tsunami, so there is a scarcity issue.
Things like Hibiki, which goes even older than 21 - I know there’s a highly touted 30 and even 35 out there - and Ichiro are terribly cool. There was a huge offering of them in the last Zachys Hong Kong auction, and prices were shocking. We are scotch drinkers in my house, so we look at those and think “wow, I can get scotch from the 60s and 70s for what these are going for,” and so pass on them usually. It’s a matter of taste and focus, I guess. The Hibiki 30 is supposed to be amazing, out of this world whisky and I’d love to taste it, but I won’t chase it.
It is funny to me that Hibiki is Suntory (or Beam Suntory, now), one of the biggest beverage companies in the world and I believe the biggest in Japan, so the same company that’s making the weirdo drinks in the vending machines all over Tokyo is making this ridiculous whisky. And, taking it even further, they own Bowmore and Laphroaig as well as many other brands. It makes me especially passionate about the old stuff, before these massive manufacturers took over. There’s no disputing the quality of a number of them, though.
Here is an article on Eater today about Japanese whisky and hype . . .
The few Japanese whiskies I’ve had such as the Nikki Yoichi 20 Year Old have all been extremely concentrated, flavorful and malty sweet. They’re very nice, high quality, but certainly different animals than their Scottish and Irish brethren.
And that’s a good thing as far as I am concerned. The more variety the better.
I just had this for the first time and really enjoyed it. Sort of a “sweeter” whiskey without being sweet. It reminded me quite a bit of some of the Irish whiskers I’ve had - Powers 12 and green spot in particular.
I had my first Japanese whiskey a couple weeks ago, the Yamazaki 18, and I have to say that I wasn’t that impressed. It was intensely aromatic, for sure, but the palate just didn’t offer me much complexity beyond being smooth and sweet. I summed up my tasting note describing the dram as a “Slightly more interesting version of Crown Royal.”
It wasn’t horrible, but it didn’t live up to the hype and when I consider for the price of that dram (around $180 up here in Wash. St) and what kind of Scotches I could get (like an Old Pultney 21, Balvenie 17 Double Wood or Dalmore 18) for similar, it was very disappointing.
I don’t mind sweet whiskeys (I’ve enjoyed several drams of Aberlour, Glenmorangie Nectar d’Or and Balvenie Caribbean Cask) but I enjoy them a heck of a lot more in that $50-70 range.
I bought a Hibiki 17 from our Costco. Not usually a fan of whiskeys and bourbon but trying to expand my palate and horizons if you will. At $119 I had to ask myself was this special or hype? Recently on a snowboarding trip a few of the guys had brought or bought different bevies. American Honey by Wild Turkey was the go-to après ski, and as the nights progressed, glenfiddich, bookers and bakers, etc all seemed to disappear.
KL has some Hakushu 18 in stock as of this afternoon.
Some interesting changes over at Nikka
In summary, they are discontinuing the entire Yoichi and Miyagikyo lines and replacing with NAS versions only. Some lines, like Coffey, remain untouched.
Oh, and prices should be going up as much as 50%. joy…
Increase in prices are staggering.
Several months back, a friend flying through Narita came back with a flyer claiming they were ceasing sales of Japanese whiskies due to lack of supply. I flew threw there some days ago, and found a small shelf (used to be 2 or 3 shelves) in the DFS store. For reference: Hibiki 21, Hakushu 18, Yamazaki 18 were all at ¥50,000. That’s $400! They had Hibiki 12 and 17 (around 25k and 35k, respectively, IIRC), maybe one other Hakushu, and some Coffey. That’s it…