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Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Scotchy Scotch, Domo Arigato edition

I have to admit it, I’m a Scotch snob. I don’t typically drink blends, unless they’re part of a mixed drink. I will take straight Laphroaig before I’ll have Johnny Blue. And I’ll like it.

Occasionally, though, I like to try something new and different, but only at the pour-me-one level. I very rarely audition a new booze with a whole bottle, though, as my wallet tends to rebel against such shenanigans like a rag tag alliance on Hoth.

Being a snob of Scotch, I was surprised to learn of an unlikely treat: Japanese single malt whiskey. I was even more surprised to see it on the Scotch shelf at my local Boozehouse. Japanese, you say? Better known for sushi and pleasant baths than bagpipes, says I. And while the bottle of Yamazaki intrigued me, the $54 price tag taunted me like a Vegas hooker. You think it’ll be a good time, but you can’t justify the expense to your wife, and you know it might taste bad no matter how it’s dressed up.

And so, I cruised right on by that bottle on the shelf, and picked up some of the Glenmorangie instead. And out the door I went.

I do travel for business, and so it came to pass that I ended up in a lovely sushi place at Disney’s Swan resort, with Wifefish and Willie, Little Danger in tow in his stroller. While he napped (Little Danger, not Willie), I perused the menu. I may also have perused the waitress in authentic kimono, but my eyes came back to the menu as the familiar Yamazaki caught my eye. I decided I’d give it a try, and the Hibiki as well. Yes, it’s a blend, but I bent my rule on this one so as to experience a traditional whiskey aged in a plum wine cask. Gang, that just sounded too yummy to pass up.

By the way, I have to call out my sushi bars around the nation. I have eaten sushi at many, many places…New York, Vegas, San Diego, Ohio, Indiana, Texas, even New Orleans…and never seen Japanese Whiskey, only sake and Ki-Rin beer. What gives? Why have you hidden this from the Dangerboy? Now I’m going to be looking for it every time, and when I can’t find it I’m going kaiju so far off the deep end you’ll think I was directed by Ishiro Honda, so you’d better have a pair of tiny Japanese girls in your pocket just in case.

That's Yamazaki, not Yamaha, not kamikaze, and damn sure not Hamekameha.

Anyhow, on to the meat of the post…the drinks. The Yamazaki is a product of Suntory distillery, built in 1923. I found it a pleasant drink indeed, a bit sweet like a Highland Scotch, but with a distinct personality and a bit of cherry hiding in the wood. As always, your mileage may vary, but this is a not-scotch that I’ll let wear an honorary kilt with its katana. Pride in whiskey is pride in whiskey, whatever flag it flies.

Hibiki means "harmony", fitting for a blend.

As for the Hibiki, I’m glad I gave it a shot, even though it’s a blend. It is of course smoothed out, but if you’re a fan of blends, you need this in your collection. It’s another Suntory production, and is very smooth and sweet. The plum flavors really come to the fore, and it finishes with a bit of peppery spice. I was pleasantly surprised, to say the least, and I’d allow a bottle of this to grace the shelves of my Pyrate Pub any time.

And so it came to pass that Dangerboy, Celtic heritage intact, did come to enjoy the fruits of the Far East. And I share it with you, now...grab your Pokemon and your bagpipes, and have a wee dram of something a bit different!

Yamazaki and Hibiki. Remember them, and Slainte!…or Kampai!!


  1. The Boyfriend and I were JUST talking yesterday about how neither of us has ever tried scotch. Crazy huh??

    BTW- Don't forget to email me about the Giggle Button :)

  2. Be careful what you try...if you're not prepared for heavy peat, you might try something (like Laphroaig) that swears you off scotch forever.

    I recommend going someplace that offers a scotch flight or scotch tasting, so you can taste several different things in tiny amounts, a true "wee dram".

    For beginning tasting where no such option is available, I'd recommend Macallan or Dalwhinnie as a good "starter". The whiskeys in this post aren't technically Scotch, since they're not distilled in Scotland, but are made the same way and are both good starters as well...but good luck finding them on a menu anywhere.

  3. While I'm not a scotch drinker it is nice to learn there is a japanese option out there. Perhaps I should offer this as a gift to the endless cycle of japanese students that my friend hosts at her house. Every once in a while there a a student that you just know is a bit more on the wild side!

  4. I hate scotch. Only tried it once. But I do try as many forms of alcohol as I can: you never know what you are going to like unless you try it right?

  5. I don't know enough about Scotch to be a snob about it, but I admire your commitment to it!

  6. you remember what kind of scotch you tried? There are many different scotches, and some of them can be harsh. Some can be sweet. I might be able to make a suggestion for a second attempt.

  7. You had me at "Laphroaig!" That is truly one of the best.

    But, onto Suntory. When I lived on the Oregon coast, I would walk the beach daily, looking for glass floats and other treasures. More often then not, I would run across barnacle encrusted bottles with the name Suntory embossed into the glass. The labels were long washed away, but I could tell that these were some kind of liquor bottles. Given the quantity of these washed up bottles, I assumed that it was cheap liquor that had been consumed on the various Japanese container ships, and the empties tossed into the ocean with the rest of their refuse.

    So, it was very interesting to read this post snd learn that they actually make high end whiskey.

    It's an oddly small world sometimes in bizarre ways. (BTW, I found your site through The Bloggess, I think. And now you are bookmarked!)


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