Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Eastern Faeries - Tokyo Whisky Club

Do you like whisky? Are you interested in trying different kinds of whisky? Are you an opened minded person when it comes to trying new spirits? Well then, let me introduce you to the newest whisky appreciation club in Tokyo, the Eastern Faeries.

A few friends and I have formed a small whisky tasting and appreciation club. Our main focus is to regularly meet up and try different kinds of whisky in a blind tasting style. Yes, it sounds kind of formal but in a relaxed atmosphere where you will enjoy the company of other whisky fans. Past events include a tasting of rare Hanyu Japanese whisky and a peated theme.

We meet up regularly. In fact we try and get together every third Sunday at the Watering Hole near Yoyogi from 2pm to 4pm. So if you are interested in attending one of our events please visit our official website. Or better yet join our Facebook page where you can sign up for our latest tastings.



Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Beers pubs with whisky 1 - The Aldgate

For the next few posts I’ll be writing about primarily beer pubs that serve whisky. Of course we aren’t going to see rare single malts but when you have friends that drink beer sometime you have to compromise. The first pub I’ll highlight is the Aldgate in Shibuya.

The Aldgate has been serving craft beer for many years. It has a wide selection of 20 craft beers on tap and also a great selection of pub food to go with it.  Examples include curry and the Welsh favourites rarebit and faggots as well as baked beans. The fish and chips are probably one of the best in Tokyo. 

They also boast around 6000 rock CDs and LPs for your listening pleasure.  Whisky wise they have around 10 Scotch single malts, a few Scotch blends, with some Irish and American as well. They will serve your whisky in Glencairn glass if you order it straight.  The have a fair selection including most standards like Springbank 10, Isle of Jura 10, Talister 10 and Ardbeg.

Open from 6pm on weeknights and 5pm on weekends and holidays.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Goodbye 2013!

2013 had been a big year for me. My second son being born was the highlight. As for whisky, I attended many festivals such as Whisky Live 2013 and a few of the MHD events. I got to try a large selection of Scotch single malts and Japanese malts and I've met many new whisky friends along the way. I was pleasantly surprised to hear from and meet a few readers of this blog. Happy to have met  you all and I hope you will stick around. I started this blog just to record my thoughts on my whisky journey. If I have helped people with their whisky journey then that is a extra bonus.

2014 promises to be another great year for whisky. There has been talk of new distilleries being built all around the world. Looking forward to hearing more about that. Also the biggest news at the end of this year is that SMWS has added three Japanese distilleries to their portfolio. These are Hanyu, Chichibu and of course Karuizawa. These most revered bottles should be released sometime in the new year. Although we can expect Karuizawa prices to accompany these bottlings.

Anyway to all my readers a very Happy New Year. I hope 2014 is a great one. Feel free to e-mail me with any questions or comments. Maybe we can meet up for a few samples at Liquors Hasegawa. Or better yet please subscribe to this blog. That will give me more incentive to post more in the new year.

New year's resolutions...
Well I'll try and post at least once a month in 2014. Let's see if I can keep that up.

Looking forward to 2014!

When will these be release?

Studying for the BJCP

Still love whisky and spend as much time with it as I can. Also have to balance out work, family and exercise so keeping busy as usual. In other words that means no time to update this blog. And now I'll be adding another complication to my already busy life.

I'll be working on getting BJCP certified next year. The BJCP stands for the Beer Judging Certification Program and it's a non-profit organization that certifies and ranks beer judges. The three purposes of the BJCP are to promote beer literacy and the appreciation of real beer, and to recognize beer tasting and evaluation skills.

Being a craft beer lover for some time I feel that it's about time I actually put my years of practice and skills to the test. There are many levels of beer judge and I plan to go as high as I can. Realistically that mean that I can get up one or two levels. There are a few obstacles though. The BJCP is based in the USA and that means everything has to come for there. Living in Japan makes it difficult to get American judges to come over to Japan to proctor and mark exams. In addition to the logistics of getting an examiner to help out with the exams, in the US there is around a 1 to 2 year waiting list for examiners as well. Craft beer appreciation in the US is just crazy!

Anyway this is something to do in the background for 2014 and will keep my interest in craft beer. I plan to pass the online test next year but have no time frame to do it in. A friend of mine has started the ball rolling and has inquired about bring a National certified judge from the US to Tokyo or Osaka to administer a tasting exam. This is slated for late 2015 so there is a bit of time to study. You have to pass the online exam before you can take the tasting exam.

Should you take the exams and become a certified judge? Well if you are passionate about craft beer and want to raise your appreciation level then I believe this is one way to do that. If you are interested then check out the official website for tons of information and resources.

Beer Judge Certification Program

Balcones in Japan

Antenna America is the retail arm of Nagano Trading. Located 5 minutes from Kannai station it's the place to get your fix of American craft beer. They have great selection of craft beer from the likes of Stone, Ballast Point and Bear Republic to name a few. I live quite far from AA so don't visit as often as I'd like to. Still being into craft beer on occasion I certainly appreciate the great prices of beer and light snacks at AA. All my Yokohama based friends however frequently visit and if you are around that area you should too.

What is of interest to me however is the large selection of craft spirits that are available to try and to purchase. Represented at AA include Dry Fly, Grand Traverse, Koral, Few and especially for me is Balcones. Being craft anything usually means that the price is going to be high. And unfortunately this is the case here. The quality is certainly there and if you don't mind the prices then it is something different for the spirits fan to try.  Luckily you can try shots at AA. These are served in Glencairn glasses so you can appreciate the fine aroma. It's always best to try before you buy. Anyway I was down at AA to drink with a few friends of mine. They go stuck into the craft beer but I ventured into the spirits as I always do.

Of major interest to me was Balcones Texas Single Malt whisky. I ordered a shot and got into sampling it. Being a craft presented whisky there is no added coloring and non chilled filtered. It was quite well balanced and the aroma was rich and malty. The taste was very interesting as well. Would I buy a bottle? Well the asking price was round 10,000 yen so not at that price. If it was half the price I would consider it.

Antenna America (opening hours vary so check the website for details)

Balcones Distilling

Balcones at Antenna America

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Kavalan whisky

On a recent trip to Hong Kong and Taiwan, my friend Ben kindly brought me back a bottle of Kavalan Taiwanese single malt. Since he was in transit he didn't have time to shop around and bought the first Kavalan he found. It was a boxed set with a 1 liter bottle of their regular single malt bottled at 40%, a 48ml miniature of their cask strength "Soloist" and two whisky tumblers. I'm always looking to try different whiskies and other spirits to get as much experience as possible. The large bottle states added caramel and it is most likely chilled filtered. The miniature doesn't state caramel. This set looks to be made for the gifts market. Personally I don't like to use tumblers and two nosing glasses would have been better. The glasses look well made though and drinking it with ice would be the default of most drinkers. I look forward to trying this whisky. A big thanks once again Ben.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Utopias 2007

My friend Jason is a lover of craft beer. As a matter of fact, many of my friends are quite partial to good beer. Jason is a co-owner of one of the coolest pizza and beer restaurants in Tokyo. I attended an opening party for their newest venture and had a great time eating Chicago style deep dish pizza and drinking fine craft beer. As the night wore on I was just finishing my pint when Jason told me to save space for something special. And special it was too. For Jason pulled up onto the counter a bottle. I knew what it was straight away. He proudly exclaims, "Utopias 2007!" After Jason fumbled with the twist cap I was surprised to see a beer cap on the bottle. Off the cap went and then a small sample into a waiting wine glass. A nice amber colour with just a smidgen of lacy head. The aroma was of light spices and soft chewying licorice. And the taste was smoother than I expected. Sweet but balanced with a variety of different flavours melded together. An exciting experience. Thanks again Jason for the taste of the naturally brewed strongest alcoholic beer in the world.