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Thursday, 16 July 2009

Mental Oriental Malt Mission - Part 1




The T**T in the Ceremonial Hat....

Wow, what a summer this is shaping up to be. Apologies for our poor posting frequency, but there's a really good reason for our slap dash behaviour. As part of a working holiday, Caskstrength had the opportunity to spend a wonderful 9 days in Japan, which turned out to be a truly eye opening experience.... our story starts here....

After a short stop over in Paris my flight to Osaka was ready for take off. I don't think i've felt anticipation like this about any other visit -Japan represents something of an enigma to most people- a deeply traditional culture with an unfathomable language barrier for westerners, so part of me expected to be totally overwhelmed in some crazy 'Lost In Translation' styled moment.

The next 11 hours were quietly spent learning a few key phrases (Hello, thank you, 'whisky please', 'this Ardbeg tastes amazing' etc...) and soon we touched down in Osaka.

As the 2nd city in Japan after Tokyo, people had unfairly compared it to Birmingham but my fears were totally dispelled on arriving into a bustling city centre and checking into the hotel. The service is truly impeccable and there was a running theme over the whole trip that the length of the complimentary shoe horn indicated the quality of hotel. (most of which were at least 2 foot long!)


'Lovely action this one....'

The Hotel was also situated next to a huge shopping centre, which sold as you can imagine...literally everything from motorised toilet seats, swords and interestingly, a collection of pet Hermit crabs with upgradeable painted shells. If only I could find somewhere to smuggle one through customs I thought...



After some essential tourist viewing at the stunning Museum of History, we fancied a little coffee to perk us up.

Enter the 'Silky Black Boss'- an unbelievably strong chilled and bottled beverage, straight from a street vending machine- more on the genius of this concept later...so with eyes now like saucers it was time to head into town in search of fine dining and of course some whisky.

Now a word of caution for anyone travelling to Japan in the near future- DO YOUR RESEARCH!! I had forgotten to print off maps to get to some specific places. Sadly, one of the whisky bars, Rogin's Tavern was lost in the misty streets forever, so we managed to locate a couple of tiny bars, almost like living rooms full of whisky which were the next best thing.



The best one, Bar Courage, was located not far from our hotel and catered for only 8 guests! ~So with a quick hello, we squeezed in and ordered some excellent whisky. Mrs Caskstrength had until this point not looked forward to the idea of 'whisky bars' purely for the reason that she disliked whisky (we're the original 'Odd Couple') but all that was about to change when she discovered the Yamazaki 12 yo -Misuari style- basically whisky made into a refreshing long drink with super-chilled mineral water. (bang goes my collection now eh....) I plumped for the following:


Ichiro's Card series- Ace of Diamonds- Distilled 1986- bottled 2008- 56.4% - 70cl

Nose: Meaty, rice crackers, malt and soft fudge, florals (violets)

Palate: Parma violets, sherbet, lemon zest, menthol, some gin like botanicals, sweet milk chocolate and licorice into finish.

Finish: Long developed, medicinal notes and lots of licorice. Floral and toffee notes at end.

Overall: Very pleasing. Another great card in the deck....

We finished up with a couple of tasty Islays (me, a Lagavulin 16 yo and Mrs Caskstrength, a Laphroaig Quarter Cask, Misuari style.



An eventful night was only made better by the discovery of 2 things: the wonderful night view across a hugely vibrant city and.... wait for it..... WHISKY IN A CAN.....



Yes, you heard it here first, the smart folks at Suntory have upped the ante on whisky innovation with the introduction of the ready made Highball- whisky and soda IN A CAN!!
Genius.

More adventures to follow, with some Highball fuelled fun in Kyoto and some truly 'Lost In Translation' moments in Tokyo, as Mrs Caskstrength gets more than she bargained for in the Misuari stakes....