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Issue 89 - Ice cold in Tokyo

Whisky Magazine Issue 89
July 2010


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Ice cold in Tokyo

With Japanese bar culture increasingly influencing many of Europe's leading mixologists, so there is no better time to discover some of the unique ways to enjoy the country's whisky too. Neil J. Ridleymeets Tokyo's ‘Mr Ice' for a crash course in the ‘coolest' whisky cocktails.

Visit some of London's most vibrant drinking establishments and you'll notice a level of buzz and anticipation around a few new bottles on their well-stocked back bars. Japanese whisky is becoming big business.

Since 1993, when Yamazaki won its first major industry award, the quality of Japanese whisky in general has grown to exceptional new heights. But take a trip to a few of Tokyo's micro bars and you'll not only see a phenomenal range of great whiskies, but a whole new take on how to consume it.

Traditionally, Japanese whisky has not only been viewed as a spirit to be enjoyed and savoured after dinner but as a perfect accompaniment to the array of flavours and aromas found in the country's cuisine. Since the early 1950s it has been commonplace to enjoy whisky during Japanese meal times, the host pouring out generous measures over high quality ice, diluting it with crystal clear mineral water to form the Mizuwari, or, if using sparkling water, the Highball.

Recent sales of Kakubin (Suntory's blended whisky, in a square bottle) confirm the popularity of this way of serving whisky, with the brand now selling an astonishing three million, 12 bottle cases annually in Japan. This unquenchable thirst has also given rise to ‘Highball Towers' being installed in a number of bars. Put simply…Japanese whisky, but on-tap.

While the thought of ‘convenience whisky' may not be to everyone's tastes, it has begun to create something of a revolution for the younger palates looking...

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