Whisky Magazine Issue 84
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London's smartest Japanese restaurants may be admired for their minimalist chic but the entrance to Sake No Hana is a little too minimal and discreet for its own good. I weave through the crowds and along the entire length of St. James's three times in bemusement before finally finding the restaurant's unassuming doors.
However, as I took the narrow elevator upwards to enter into the calming zen-like atmosphere, the busy bustle of the street belowsoon evaporates away.
At the top, I am greeted with a bow by Dr. Koichi Inatomi, Senior brand manager for Suntory and our host for this lunchtime tasting to sample the single malts of Yamazaki alongside the traditional Japanese food served at Sake no Hana.
With half a century's experience under his belt at Japan's biggest whisky distiller – his impressive CV lists varied employment as a laboratory chemist,warehouse manager, distillery designer and chief blender – Dr Inatomi proves a knowledgeable guide to talk us through the Yamazaki range of malts. However, our host can also provide an interesting insight into the mealtime drinking customs of his native Japan. For rather than being an exercise in precision to compare the relative merits of one particular dish with a specific whisky expression, this lunch more broadly explores the idea of how Japanese food and whisky are typically enjoyed together.
The first clue to Japanese drinking habits is revealed in the drinks list at Sake no Hana, which is as authentically Japanese bec...