Some Japanese Whisky Tasting Notes

Suntory Yamazaki Single Malt

The Yamazaki distillery was Japan’s first distillery—the birthplace of Japanese whisky. Centrally located near the confluence of three rivers outside of Kyoto, it’s Suntory’s flagship in many ways, so it’s only fitting that their 12 year expression was the first Japanese whisky available in the US.

A lovely single malt in the style of a Speyside Scotch, the Yamazaki 12 starts out light and fruity up front with the scent of apples and honey, transitioning into deeper malt flavor and a hint of barrel spices appear on tasting. With a light mouthfeel and finish fading from sweetness to spice, it’s devastatingly drinkable at 86 proof—a perfect entry point into the world of Japanese whisky, and the cheapest entry point at around $40 a bottle.

The Yamazaki 18 is also available at a more pricey $135 or so, as well as a limited-release expression of the Yamazaki 1984 (largely sold out even at a MSRP of $600). They are both exceptional whiskies, so if you’re looking to take the next step in your journey, these are the bottles for you.

Suntory Hakushu Single Malt 12

Further north, Suntory’s Hakushu distillery is located outside Hokuto in the Yamanashi prefecture. Nestled in Japan’s Southern Alps, it’s one of the highest single malt distilleries in the world, though its nickname is “the forest distillery.” A lightly peated whisky, the Hakushu 12 smells similar to the Yamazaki—sweet and fruity—but the delicate smoke adds a very lively contrast. On tasting, citrus and ginger start to emerge with a bit of pepper and heat. Once again, the mouthfeel is luscious but light, and the finish lingers briefly with a touch of dry smoke. It’s incredibly fresh and crisp for a peated whisky. Hakushu 12 is 86 proof and listing at around $55 a bottle.

Suntory Hibiki 12

A blended whisky made from malt and grain whiskies from Suntory’s distilleries aged in a range of barrels (including plum wine barrels) the 12 year expression is the sweetest of the Suntory whiskies. Honeyed and floral, with desert flavors of vanilla, clove, and almond, it’s rounded out by a substantial grain presence and enough wood to keep the sweetness in balance. The Hibiki 12 is 86 proof and lists around $60 a bottle. (Bonus: Bill Murray is selling the Hibiki 17 in Lost in Translation, but the bottle has the same appearance, so you can play the part at home!)

Nikka Taketsuru Pure Malt 12

Nikka’s blended whisky offering to the US is not a blend of grain and malt whiskies, like the Hibiki, bur rather a blend of only malt whiskies (hence ‘pure malt’). Drawing on stocks from the Yoichi and Miyagijyo distilleries, it’s fruity and round. Apples, barley, and sweet grain transition to honey and wood spices, with just a trace of smokiness to pull it all together. With a heftier body than the Hibiki, it’s a more muscular blend without sacrificing balance. A wonderful pure malt that stands on its own at 80 proof, it’s priced at $70 a bottle.

Nikka Yoichi Single Malt 15

The Yoichi distillery is on the island of Hokkaido, the northernmost of Japans four major islands. Situated on a coastal perch that’s partially surrounded by mountains, it’s Nikka’s oldest distillery. The Yoichi 15 is Nikka’s marquee offering stateside, and it’s the boldest whisky of the day. Sweet, nutty, and sherried on the nose, the malt transforms on tasting. Evolving very dramatically from a mild oakiness to intense spices and ginger to mild sweetness, it finishes with all of the flavors commingling and drifting off on a wisp of smoke. Full bodied and rich, it’s a journey in a glass. The Yoichi 15 is bottled at 90 proof and lists for $130 a bottle.

Japanese Whisky: General Knowledge

Whisky production in Japan began around 1870, but the first commercial production was in 1924 upon the opening of the country’s first distilleryYamazaki. Broadly speaking the style of Japanese whisky is more similar to that of Scotch whisky than IrishAmerican, or Canadian styles of whiskey, and thus the spelling typically follows the Scottish convention (omitting the letter “e”).

There are several companies producing whisky in Japan. Perhaps the two most well known are Suntory and Nikka. Both of these produce blended as well as single malt whiskies.

Continue reading

Sake: General Knowledge

Sake

This article is about the beverage. For other uses, see Sake (disambiguation).

Sake (/ˈsɑːk/ or /ˈsɑːki/)[1][2] is an alcoholic beverage of Japanese origin that is made from fermented rice. It may also be spelled saké.

In the Japanese language, the word sake refers to Japanese liquor, while the beverage called sake in English is termed nihonshu (日本酒, “Japanese liquor”).

Continue reading

Mezcal: General Knowledge

Mezcal

 
  Various views of a bottle of mezcal. The worm can be seen in the middle image, at the bottom of the bottle.

Mezcal, or mescal, is a distilled alcoholic beverage made from the maguey plant (a form of agaveAgave americana) native to Mexico. The word mezcal comes from Nahuatl mexcalli[meʃ’kalːi] metl [met͡ɬ] and ixcalli [iʃ’kalːi] which means “oven-cooked agave”.[1]

The maguey grows in many parts of Mexico, though most mezcal is made in Oaxaca.[2] There is a saying attributed to Oaxaca regarding the drink: “para todo mal, mezcal, y para todo bien también” (“for everything bad, mezcal, and for everything good, as well”).[3][4]

It is unclear whether distilled drinks were produced in Mexico before the Spanish Conquest.[5] The Spaniards were introduced to native fermented drinks such as pulque, also made from the maguey plant. Soon the conquistadors began experimenting with the maguey plant to find a way to make a distillable fermented mash. The result was mezcal.[6]

Today, mezcal is still made from the heart of the maguey plant, called the “piña”, much the same way it was 200 years ago, in most places.[3][7] In Mexico, mezcal is generally consumed straight and has a strong smoky flavor.[7] Though mezcal is not as popular as tequila (a mezcal made specifically from the blue agave in select regions of the country), Mexico does export the product, mostly to Japan and the United States, and exports are growing.[8]

Despite the similar name, mezcal does not contain mescaline or other psychedelic substances.[9]

Continue reading

Five Mountains Tea – Heirloom Organic Teas

The Sea by Alexander’s Steakhouse Tea Selection

GREEN

Sencha1a

Zairai Sencha | The original cultivar used for Japan’s classic pan-fired tea (sen cha)
Profile Notes of orchid, minerals & green sprouts, Sen’cha (pan-fired tea). Signature Umami(savory) flavor from high amino acid content.
Process Sustainably harvested leaves > steaming > pan-fired > forming > drying.
Attributes High amino acid and theanine content. Single origin, garden direct, heirloom cultivar.
Preparation 1 Tbs. per 8 oz, DO NOT USE BOILING WATER, This tea requires water under a boil, 170˚ F, 3-4 min. For iced tea, steep tea strongly, allow to cool, pour over ice
Region Shizuoka, Japan. 500 m. elev., 23˚N, 120˚E
Garden Kawane Mountain garden est. 1327

JADE

HighMountainJadeteawulonglilyjinxuan1Spring Jade | Organic Jade hybrid sub-cultivar Golden Lily (Jin Xuan) | signature creme w/ notes of melon & spring flowers

Profile Signature creaminess, notes of honey dew, fresh lilac with spring aromas
Process Sustainably harvested leaves > sun withered > > indoor withering (20-25% oxidized) > rolling > drying > compressing > fired. Note: This tea is NOT made with the artificial scenting that is common in this mass production of this cultivar.
Attributes Medium caffeine, energizing, increases metabolism and immunity. Single origin, garden direct, high mountain (alpine).
Preparation 1-2 tsp per 8 oz, DO NOT USE BOILING WATER, This tea requires water slightly under a boil,195˚ F, 3-4 min. For iced tea, steep tea strongly, allow to cool, pour over ice
Region 1,200 to 1,400 metres (3,960–4,620 ft) elev, 30˚ N. Lat., Mae Salong, Kingdom of Siam, Thailand
Garden Peaceful (Tik Hiri) Gardens, ancient tea area of local Akha, Yao, Karen, Hmong & Chinese tea masters.

RED

RubySunriseleaf1aHeirloom Ruby | Heirloom organic Yun’Hong tea | Vibrant malty sweetness, vanilla accents & ripe tannins. | aka Dian Hong

Profile Vibrant full bodied, food friendly tea w/ a malty sweetness, vanilla accents & ripe tannins.
Process Sustainably harvested leaves > withered indoors > lightly rolled > fully oxidized > re-rolled > re-withered > fully dried
Attributes Higher caffeine, increases vitality and awareness, increases metabolism*, reduces high cholesterol, Certified organic, sustainably harvested, single origin, garden direct.Lan’Xang tea species are higher in polyphenol content by 5-7%,catechin 30-60% and water-soluble substances 3-5%
Preparation 1 Tbs per 8 oz, 212˚ F, 5-7 min. For iced tea, steep tea strongly, allow to cool, pour over ice
Region The largest concentration of the oldest wild tea trees in the world, in virtual tea forests in the Lan Xang Biodiverse Rainforest. Known as Thousands Acres Ancient Tea Trees. Red mineral rich soil, fog laden 5,000 ft. + elev., 22˚ N. Lat.
Garden The Pure Step ecological tea gardens were established around 696 AD from 4,000+ year old wild harvested ancient tea arbors in the heart of East Asia’s most rich and biodiverse rain-forests known locally as Lan Xang (Million Elephant)

GrandQimen1aGrand Crimson | Heirloom, 100% organic Zhu Yu tea varietal | notes of pine, plum, dried black rose | aka Keemun

Profile Rich with notes of dried black rose, Lakota tobacco, dragon-eye fruit & bay leaf
Process Sustainably harvested leaves > withered indoors > lightly rolled > fully oxidized (70-100%) > re-rolled > re-withered > fully dried
Attributes Higher caffeine, Aids weight loss, digestion, cleansing, eliminates alcohol toxins. reduces high cholesterol*. Certified organic, sustainably harvested, single origin, garden direct
Preparation 1-2 tsp per 8 oz, 212˚ F, 5-7 min. For iced tea, steep tea strongly, allow to cool, pour over ice
Region Qí’Mén County, Shitai, Guniujiang National Nature Reserve

IMG2190a1Bergamot Black | Organic black tea varietal blended with bitter orange | citral notes over velvety dark taut leaves | aka Earl Grey

Profile Robust, rich Crimson black tea with fragrant citral notes
Process Sustainably harvested leaves > withered indoors > lightly rolled > fully oxidized > re-rolled > re-withered > scented > fully dried
Attributes Higher caffeine, increases vitality and awareness, increases metabolism*, reduces high cholesterol, Certified organic, sustainably harvested, single origin, garden direct.
Preparation 1 Tbs per 8 oz, 212˚ F, 5-7 min. For iced tea, steep tea strongly, allow to cool, pour over ice
Region Qi’Men county, Anhui. Virgin Forest, dense fog. 1,700 ft elev. 29˚ N, 117˚ E
Garden Qi”Men Virgin Forest Preserve

TISANE

PacificPeppermint1a1Pacific Peppermint |Organic young downy leaf sets | Fresh, cooling, sweet, vibrant

Profile Fresh, cooling, sweet, vibrant
Process Sustainably harvested > cut > dried
Attributes Non-caffeinated, cooling, soothing, aids digestion
Preparation 1-2 tsp. per 8 oz. Water: 205-212°F. Steep 4-5 min. Use filtered or spring water. For Iced Tea. Steep tea well. Allow to cool. Pour over ice.
Region The Cascade Mountain valleys of Washington, moist rich soil, heavy fog

GoldenChamomile1aNile Valley Chamomile | Heirloom organic whole flowers, Egyptian source varietal | Fragrant notes of fresh cut apple, melon

Profile Fragrant notes of fresh cut apple, melon
Process Hand harvested full flower > shade dried 6-7 days.
Attributes Non-caffeinated, soothing, calming essential amino acid (tryptophan)
Preparation 1 Tbs. per 8 oz. Water: 212°F Steep 4-5 min. Use filtered or spring water. For Iced Tea. Steep tea well. Allow to cool. Pour over ice.
Region Source origin of chamomile flowers, the Western Saharan oasis along the Nile River in the heart of Egypt. Herbs have been planted in this region since the Pharoanic ages. The finest are from Asyut.
Garden ‘Oasis’ Asyut Fields. sandy, well-drained soil with a pH of 7.0-7.5 and lots of sun

Kamaboko (蒲鉾)

Kamaboko (蒲鉾?) is a type of cured surimi, a Japanese processed seafood product, in which various white fish are pureed, combined with additives such as MSG, formed into distinctive loaves, and then steamed until fully cooked and firm. The steamed loaves are then sliced and served unheated (or chilled) with various dipping sauces or sliced and included in various hot soups, one-dish meals, or noodle dishes. Kamaboko is typically sold in semi-cylindrical loaves. Some kamaboko include artistic patterns, such as the pink spiral on each slice of narutomaki, named after the well-known tidal whirlpool near the Japanese city of Naruto.

Although the Japanese name for kamaboko is sometimes used outside of Japan (cf., sushi), some extant English names for kamaboko are fish pastefish loaffish cake, and fish sausage(Tsuji, 1980). Tsuji recommends using the Japanese name in English because no adequate English name exists, other than the Jewish dish, gefilte fish, which is somewhat similar.

Red-skinned and white kamaboko are typically served at celebratory and holiday meals, as red and white are considered to bring good luck.

Kamaboko has been made in Japan since the 14th century CE and is now available nearly worldwide. The simulated crab meat product kanikama (short for kani-kamaboko), the best-known form of surimi in the West, is a type of kamaboko. In Uwajima, a type of fried kamaboko called jakoten is popular. In Japan, chīkama (cheese plus kamaboko) is commonly sold in convenience stores as a pre-packaged snack food.

http://www.kamaboko.com/english/how_do.pdf

http://www.kamaboko.com/english/history.pdf