Drams in Japan
05.06.20 by Tim Foster – Sales Manager, Lindores Abbey Distillery
Spoiler alert. I’m not the only ‘non-Scot’ to study the art of Scotch Whisky making and to want to try some drams in Japan. In 1918 a scholar named Masataka Taketsuru travelled all the way from Japan to do just that. A chemist by trade, Masataka diligently studied Whisky making, working at distilleries in the Lowlands, Speyside and Cambletown. Detailed notes and Scottish Wife in tow he returned to Japan, where he then spent a brief spell with Suntory Masataka and established Nikka Whisky. To put it mildly, he was pretty much single handily responsible for the Japanese Whisky industry. There is even a Japanese soap opera about Masataka and Rita (true fact).
By the time I learned about Masataka’s legacy I was already fascinated with Japanese Whisky. Then I read Dave Brooms ‘The Way of Whisky’, a truly eloquent book which explores not just Japanese whisky, but also their enchanting and thoroughly fascinating culture. At some juncture, Japanese bar tending also appeared on my radar (and a temporary obsession with Japanese bartending You Tube videos).
Growing up with Nintendo, Akira and Ninjas I guess I’ve always had a soft spot for Japan. Add a layer of award winning single malt, stunning natural beauty and the world class cocktail bars. I had to go. What better excuse than using our honeymoon, I thought. Shortly before we set off, I met Dave Broom and asked for bar recommendations. He handed me Atsushi Horigami’s business card and told me to visit Bar Zoetrope. I’m glad he did.
Drinking drams in Japan
The Japanese are very good at customer service. This is understandably something that you would expect when visiting somewhere like Bar High Five in Tokyo, which regularly features on lists of the top cocktail bars in the world (and rightly so). Yet it is not something you might expect in a back alley bar. Bar service in Japan comes with a level of attention, unlike anything I’ve experienced elsewhere in the world. Every movement and action is carefully considered. Nothing is rushed, nor littered with needless excess. Things are purposeful, such as the presentation of your bottle of Whisky, placed carefully on the bar and rotated so you can read the label. Or the selection of ice, which is dependent on the whisky serve. On the subject of ice, the Japanese really take things to the next level. Carefully selecting ice based on size and clarity, understanding that a large single block has a greater surface area and will melt more slowly causing less dilution. The bartender will then assiduously stir the ice with Whisky to get the optimum temperature and dilution before presenting it to the customer. The Japanese even have a word for this devotion to detail and service when drinking drams in Japan – omotenashi.
Enjoying whisky in this considered, curated way adds yet another dimension to the experience. You see, to me Whisky is a thing to be savoured. I want to spend time to get to know a Single Malt. To explore its DNA. The setting in which the whisky is enjoyed is part of this experience. Whether that is straight from the cask in a dusty, damp warehouse in Fife. On a salty, windswept Islay beach. Or in a tiny back alley bar in Osaka. They are all experiences to treasure.
One thing is for certain, I am really looking forward to enjoying our Single Malt Whisky with different cultures from around the world. Slainte
Cask Ownership at Lindores Abbey Distillery
The distillery is of course currently closed but you can still chat to Elliot, our Cask Custodian about our cask ownership scheme and what is involved. We still have a lot of exciting projects going on with different types of casks coming through – but they are all very limited so get in touch if you would like to explore different opportunities within the whisky world. You can contact Elliot on firstname.lastname@example.org or find out more at https://lindoresabbeydistillery.com/welcome-lindores-abbey-distillery/cask-ownership/