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 Japanese Single Malts, Scotch, Bourbon, all that sort of thing!

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PostSubject: Japanese Single Malts, Scotch, Bourbon, all that sort of thing!   Fri Feb 12, 2016 7:18 pm

So what started this post off is an ongoing discussion about DRANK. More specifically, about good Japanese single malts. Into this we have woven some commentary on other good drinks for the money, and I'd love to hear Silent's take on different rum varieties sometime. Without further ado:

___________________________
Creep, what was that Japanese Whiskey you brought that one Geekfest that
was aged in the wine casks or port casks? I just finished my bottle and
I am looking to buy something. I liked that stuff, it was tasty.
___________________________

THAT my friend may require a Demise post.

Shtuff is changing over here in Japan...believe that was an sherry cask
oloroso-finished Yamazaki which I purchased off thewhiskyexchange.com

Just learned how hard it is to get that stuff--much like the original K.
Hansotia Gurkha brand cigars...these up-and-coming businesses put out
AMAZING products in their first few years, to get established; then they
raise prices, cut back on quality, and limit distribution. IE, only
about two runs of Gurkha cigars are worth a shit anymore, and as for the
Yamazaki--you have to go with the higher-end bottles to get what
previously sold for about $100/ per. Problem is, they're all sold out
in the west given Suntory and the Yamazaki sub-brand unable (unwilling?)
to keep up with the Western demand signal.

Couple that with the depreciating yen due to the ongoing currency war
and "Abenomics" over here, and you have a pain-in-the-ass issue for
single malt afficianados.

Another new factor I learned about on the ground here, regarding
Japanese single malts: the flagship single malts: Nikka Taketsuru 12,
Nikka Taketsuru 17, Hibiki 17, Hakushu 12, etc...have been "dumbed down." That is, the distiller wants to cash in
on their good name without telling you how AGED ALL of the malt is...so,
they've released "Nikka Taketsuru" (not 12 or 17, but most likely 12 cut
with Nikka all malt) as a top-shelf offering here...you have to special
order the 12 or 17 separately. Same with Hakushu, only boutiques carry
it now, not your local liquor store. Yamazaki--same thing.

If Scotland did this, it would be like going to the store for Lagavulin
16 at $100/bottle, only finding "Lagavulin" in the same place and price
point (but tastes different--certainly cheaper), and having to purchase
Lagavulin 16 from a special distributor for 30% more...or more.

On a good note...I am here, and I see this happening, I go on walkabout
and find every last little shop that has a few bottles of higher-end
stuff left, and have found a few offerings that are not sold outside
Japan: Yamazaki 2015, for instance. (Nor have I seen any English
reviews on it, but at $95 a bottle HERE, you can bet it is good.) All
of those other single malts, now that they have been "dumbed down," are
also pretty cheap locally--like $10 a bottle for the middle shelf
($60/bottle online out of country), and $30-40 a bottle for
non-year-designated "top shelf." (Mostly so the locals can claim they
are drinking Hakushu on the cheap...I priced a bottle of Hakushu 12 out
the other day at $90, not the $28 you get for just Hakushu without the
year guarantee.)

Last point--since Yamazaki is still limited distribution and every year
the higher-end offerings are distinctly "boutique," they change
constantly. When they offered the Yamazaki 50 at $10,0000 a bottle, it
sold out day one. My loving wife managed to score a numbered Yamazaki
25 bottle for me back in the day, but no distributor carries it
anymore...and I am willing to bet that bottle has doubled in value. I
do not see that Oloroso cask offering you enjoyed--anywhere.

Similar issue with Bundaberg rum back in the day. My last bottle
(bought for $40) sells for over $800 on replacement.

Not what you wanted to hear, but I will be sending things back during
this 2-year tour. If there's anything you want to try, check out the
Demise site and I will start posting my thoughts on local single malts
after this 4-month deployment coming up. Sat around the other night
with one of the guys and sampled about 10 different bottles; the low-end
Taketsuru was the best, although we did have a RIDICULOUSLY CHEAP
($10/fifth, although it comes in 600mL bottles at $Cool local 100 proof bourbon that blows away most American
offerings--peaty finish, so hits you like a bourbon/scotch.

More online later! Gotta brief a 3-star in a bit.

CC'ing missus, as she will be my distro point back in the states
too--unless I get addresses and specific requests from you guys.

_________________________________

Awesome. Well keep me posted. I brought back a Hibiki 12 and 17 last time I was there. Haven't tried any other Japanese whiskeys. It seemed like everything was single malt, haven't seen any good blends recommended. I did like those though. The were pretty good although nothing to write home about imo.

_________________________________

Hibiki 12 was one of the "dumbing down" offerings. Hibiki "Harmony" is
dumber still (but you still get the nifty bottle to use afterwards as a
decanter. Whee.) Oh, and babe, don't tell our daughter I used
"Harmony" and "dumber" in the same sentence. She might have a
conniption if I sent you a bottle with her name on it. The 17 is the
benchmark Japanese single malt, and currently retails around $115/bottle
in Japan. That being said, once you get into the >$50/bottle range,
there's other things out there to compete at a similar price-point--from
Scottish single malts to high-end American bourbons.

HOWEVER...in the US we put ENORMOUS tariffs on Scottish imports (not so
much Japanese), so you have seen the $24.99 bottle of Laphroaig creep up
to $55 since 2007...in part due to the ongoing global currency war (btw,
Japanese central bank just announced negative interest rates to "keep
the peace"; yen took an immediate 4% dive on the news), but also in part
to the insane gas prices of the last decade--input costs drive cost
creep. That's why American bourbon has stayed about the same as years
ago...Dad's half-gallon of Kessler's is still under $20 as I recall. No
big change there.

What that cost creep has done to the single malt market has been to
drive "tasty" into the stratosphere. JJ likes Chivas and Glenfiddich, but both are sitting just below top shelf in most liquor stores.
You could look up what TYPES of scotch those are (Highland, Lowland,
Speyside, blah blah blah) but to me there's really just a few vectors:
sweet, smoky, peaty, how it opens with water, and SHITTY (low end
offerings now cutting their alcohol with WEIRD alcohols and/or using
sulfite candles to burn scotch barrels to make them last longer as a
cost-savings measure for the distilleries..be VERY careful with anything
in a plastic bottle these days...feels like a habu-sake hangover or so
I've been told). I like to keep it simple. I LOVE Yamazaki 18. Last
bottle Ange and I bought was from a distributor in San Diego for $95.
Polished it off over an exceedingly romantic weekend at a medical
conference of hers...got to hear George Will speak. Yamazaki 18 reminds
me of the Reserva de la Familia tequila (another $100 price point) with
legs on it like a thoroughbred. Not sure you can snag either bottle
under $150 anymore, and the mediocre offerings coming out of Scotland
and Japan are all inching into the $50-60 range at your local store.
Absolute bullshit, don't pay those prices. Much as I dislike bourbon, I
quit caring after a couple. Okay, maybe 3. Although, VERY happy with
this Japanese 100 proof bourbon at $10/bottle. Will have to send a few
back when I speak with one of the guys' Japanese spouses and learn to
use the Japan Post service (they ship drinkie, USPS-mil will NOT).
Beautiful presentation btw, identical to the Templeton Rye bottle.

So keep your eyes open for any Japanese single malts you like, and be
VERY specific regarding what the label says...I can get just about
everything, am happy to send quality drinks back, but the supermarket
low-end "top shelf" offerings here around $30-40 a bottle are about what
we've come to expect from the $50-60 bottle shelf in the US. (IE, okay
but not GREAT.) Great comes with a price anymore.

Want a good way to keep prices down and enjoy good TASTE? Grab
Laphroaig from the local PX (military distributors have never fixed the
price point on Laphroaig--still around $27 instead of double that out in
town) and cut it with half-gallons of cheap shit...like McCormick's (one
of the few in plastic bottles that hasn't turned in the last few years).
Voila, 3/4 gallon of smoky scotch that isn't as turbid as Laphroaig, and
doesn't taste as cheap as JW Red.

I intend to go on walkabout this weekend; I usually take pix of the
goodies when the proprietors permit me. If you guys download the TANGO
app, we can chat and I can shop for you anytime. Basically Vent + pix
for your phone--doesn't charge texts or voice. I have a $20/month card
installed in my international phone atm. WAY cheaper than the American
phone racket. Probably buy a new card in every foreign port for a few
bucks and discard it when I leave...like everyone else does in the
jailbroken part of the world.

Oh, one last thing...There are really no tariffs on scotch here in
Japan. Just found a bottle of JW blue for $90. ASK if you are looking
for high-end Scottish single malts; I MAY be able to find a VERY few for
half the price.

BTW, purchased a guidebook or two here...and I will probably be through
them in a few months and into a "locals only" level of understanding
where to get goodies following our deployment thru May.
__________________________

New update: I've heard about it for 18 years, but had never seen it, until last night.

Habu Sake: the sake with the poisonous habu (snake) in the bottle. Retails for $100/bottle. Couldn't get a picture, given where it was in the store behind the counter. Will plan on getting one sometime.

First round of offerings will be sent home this weekend, planning to pick up a bottle a month while I'm over here, to build up our wet bar with hard-to-finds again.


_________________
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SNES Fanboi, player of (series) Shadow Hearts, Suikoden, Castlevania, Drakengard (Nier), Dragon Age, and Torchlight.

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