Sunday, April 16, 2017

Yamazaki Distillery

Three years ago I was going for a drink after work with my friend Bill and we went to some posh new place that was a short walk in between both our places. Looking at the menu I thought the Two Smoky Barrels looked interesting, a whiskey drink with orange and lemon flavor. It was so delicious that when I got home I went about finding out what exactly the smoky barrel was. Three years later and I've now tried a couple dozen different kinds of whiskey from the smoky tastes of Islay to the sweet tastes of Aberlour. What does toast taste like? Can I smell the pears? Why char a barrel and what is the angel's share? What is the different between a blend and single malt? I learned.

Shortly after I started trying these different whiskeys my friend Bill bought a bottle of the Yamazaki 12 year. At the time it cost about 65 dollars, a pretty hefty sum for me and a bit out of my budget, but Bill was kind enough to spare me a glass. This was the first time I tasted Yamazaki and it was good.

Since then I'd been keen to visit the distilleries of Japan and so my wife helped to set up a tour we took this April. The distillery is just outside of the city of Osaka so it wasn't hard to get to. We set up and afternoon tour and there were about twenty other people on the tour with us. Oddly (or not?) only three people on the tour were Japanese. Prices varied, but we went for 1000yen per person, about 9 dollars at the current exchange rate. This price payed for the tour as well as a tasting of 4 whiskeys at the end of the tour. A pretty good deal.
The tour took us through the stills and vats where the whiskey was born and on to the barrel room where it is stored. It was a joyous tour and all of us were smiling ear to ear. At the end we had a tasting of 4 types of Yamazaki whiskey and a number of snacks salty and sweet.
After the tasting, cheeks rosy, we headed to the bar. I tried three small glasses, one of which was a 25 year old Yamazaki. Many different whiskeys were available, both Yamazaki and foreign. All were delicious.
Unfortunately word has spread and the Yamazaki 12 year is now a rare bird. What cost Bill 65 dollars 3 years ago would now cost him about 150 dollars. Whiskey is back in fashion and the Chinese market is now imbibing as well. Many brands, including the stalwart Johnny Walker, are facing increasing demand in the face of limited supplies. Prices will only go up.

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