Suntory’s Art of Japanese Event – NYC

June 13, 2013 § 20 Comments

This post could have also been titled:

Whisky Love Affair: Suntory

There isn’t one particular reason that I love Suntory – but more a collection of experiences gained over the years.  The first, and perhaps most important, being that they are the producers of “the dram” that set me down this path of total Whisky geekdom, which I will always attribute as being Suntory’s Yamazaki 18.  The second being that we always have a bottle of the Yamazaki 12yr on hand – always (which I have reviewed in the past HERE). I have long admired the Japanese esthetic – and when it’s applied to luxury, it doesn’t typically come across as being ostentatious or glitzy glam – but instead clean elegance.

And it was this minimalistic elegance that was on magnificent display a month ago on Tuesday, May 14th, at the Art of Suntory event at the Noguchi Museum in New York.  This was no ordinary tasting, mind you, but an experience to not be quickly forgotten.  No attention to detail was spared – from the sleek slate gray invitation with the carefully commissioned muted gray cheery blossom photo stamp – a detail so quiet it was not done to stand out on its own but rather aid in setting the tone for the pending event – to the exquisitely chosen location; the striking Noguchi Museum.

Suntory_1Entering the museum, we were greeted by a row of adoring fans … er … no, that’s not right …. rather a group of cheerful servers with delicate delicious amuse-bouches prepared by the renowned chef, David Bouley paired with a Hakushu 12 Highball.  Delightful!

And don’t think for a second that you were able to just “show up” … no, when I say they took care of everything – they did.  We were given a choice to 2 convenient meeting points in Manhattan – where we then boarded luxury shuttle buses to be driven off to (and from!) the event in Queens.  Talk about an entrance.  We were first welcomed by being handed a printed Suntory silk scarf – the color of which signified your level as a guest (red was press!) which was folded origami style into a pouch containing the program for the evening, a press packet & whisky menu.  Classy.  After walking past the line of servers above, we strolled outside to connect with #WhiskyFabric friends new & old.  You could feel the excitement building in the air. No one knew quite what to expect but the foundation for a stellar evening was laid.

Suntory_2It kicked off outside with an impressive showing of whiskies and Suntory personalities, including CEO Toshi “TJ” Kumakora, Master Distiller Mike Miyamoto, USA East Coast Brand Ambassador Gardner Dunn and USA West Coast Brand Ambassador Neyah White, all of whom played an important role of guiding us through the evening.

Neyah White kicked us off with a Japanese word (sounded like “omo”) that means: opening up barriers.  This can take on so many forms – from our zen garden settings in the midst of urban NYC to the overall fact that the world whisky category is here to stay.  We heard from Mike Miyamoto (pictured below) who took us through the tasting and chef David Bouley who shared his own experiences of whisky + food coming together to enhance each other.

Suntory_4

THE TASTING (photographed above):

YAMAZAKI 18YO | Nose: caramel, vanilla rooibos tea, sweet herbal notes | Taste: Herbal sweet & warming spice tea notes continue, long smooth finish. Heaven in a bottle.

HAKUSHU 25YO | Nose: burnt orange peel, mild sweet smokiness, fresh flowers … lilies, bit of evergreen forest | Taste: Spicy! Dark earthy tones – not piny but more of moss/mold in a good way!

HIBIKI 21YO | Nose: pear, honey, smoke | Taste: very balanced, not too many individual tastes popped out at me. Plenty of complexity.

The weather was perfect for such an event which flowed seamlessly between the indoors & outdoors areas.  In hindsight, I don’t remember ever consciously walking to a place because it was indoors or out – but rather because the mood (or, let’s face it, WHISKY!) was calling me!

Suntory_3

In the photo above on the right is William O’Donnell of The Men’s Collective and my husband, Nital Patel (which was a huge treat for me as it’s often hard to align schedules and actually attend a whisky event together!).

After the guided whisky tasting – they opened up the other “stations” around as more guests joined in the fun. The food, which started flowing out of the hidden kitchen, was a collection of delicate little morsels of goodness made with the intention of bringing out a particular aspect of the Single Malts or Blends.

We strolled, tasted, sampled, chatted and enjoyed ourselves for hours.  Having particular joy in chatting with G-LO & Limpd of the It’s Just The Booze Dancing Blog, Josh Feldman, of the Coopered Tot blog (photographed below) and Stephen from The Malt Imposter.

Suntory_5My apologies to The Malt Imposter who did not make it into the above photo, but I thought this shot of the Yamazaki 25YO was a good place holder 😉

Below, East Coast Suntory Brand Ambassador Gardner Dunn quickly shaves large cubes of ice down into perfectly rounded spheres and Suntory’s not-for-sale sparkling water bottled at the Yamazaki distillery used in the Hibiki 12 Highballs.Suntory_6

We ended the night strolling through the garden one more time – enjoying the sunset, whisky, food and company.  But just when you thought they couldn’t pull out any more surprises, as we wound our way back through the museum to board a return bus home, there were YAMAZAKI TRUFFLES!!!!!  I got so excited mine jumped from my hand and proceeded to roll across the floor at such a pace (leaving a little trail of dusted chocolate as it went!) I thought someone might have been controlling it via remote!  Well, I can only be classy for so long, I’m surprised my bus didn’t turn back into a pumpkin halfway along the journey!Suntory_7

HUGE THANKS TO: Suntory & Exposure USA PR Company for hosting & inviting us to such a wonderful event.  Particular thanks to Exposure’s Danielle Katz & Nicholas Rotondi for your generosity & going above and beyond to make us feel welcome. And BIG THANKS to the #WhiskyFabric crew who also attended and made this event feel far more personal than any event could.

You can see the It’s Just The Booze Dancing review of the event HERE.

You can see The Malt Impostor’s review of the event HERE.

APOLOGIES to Suntory & Exposure for my month-long delay in writing this post!  I wanted this to be as perfect as the event has been preserved in my head … but then realized that would be impossible and it was more important to just get this done! 😀  Sorry for the writer’s block!

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§ 20 Responses to Suntory’s Art of Japanese Event – NYC

  • G-LO says:

    Ahhhhhh! Always great to relive a fabulous experience through words and images. Lovely and classy job on the recap. You truly captured the event! And I’m impressed that the “douche” word managed to be excluded. Perhaps we should have used it more sparingly. 😉

    Here’s hoping we all get to share more drams together really really soon!

    Cheers!
    G-LO

    • G-LO,
      YOUR review is amazing!!!! It’s so enjoyable and funny! I loved reading it and also think we were all so fortunate to be able to share in the experiences together! Truly enriched the whole event.

      Thanks for your support (& for making sure I got this post done! That writers block I was having got on my last nerve! lol).

      Cheers,
      Allison

      • G-LO says:

        So glad you enjoyed it! We definitely had some fun with it. Any excuse to use “douche” in a post.

        And as far as the assist on this post, anytime! We could all use a little push now and again. I too was going through a bit of writers block for awhile there, so I totally understand.

        Cheers!
        G-LO

  • Susannah SB says:

    I’ve been green with envy since reading G-LO’s review some time ago, and this doesn’t help! But seriously, beautiful write-up and notes. Looks like an unforgettable time was had by all!

    • Oh Susannah (I feel like I’ve heard that before …. in a song, perhaps?) 😉
      Seriously though, the event would have been EVEN BETTER with you there! I would have been really curious to hear your tasting notes on some of those magnificent drams as well. Thanks for posting your comment – you were most certainly missed.

  • Matt Golden says:

    Hello there Allison!

    I have a bottle of Yamazaki 18 right next to a bottle of Brenne on my shelf right now, both of which you turned me onto. As always, thank you for sharing and for starting me on my whisky voyage.

    -Matt

    • Matt!
      So lovely to hear from you again! I’m truly touched that the Brenne + Yamazaki 18 are friends on your shelf. Two awesome drams, if I may say so myself! 😀

      Always happy to make further recommendations – I see an impressive Single Malt enthusiast in you emerging!

      Cheers,
      Allison

  • Josh Feldman says:

    What a great write up of a great event. This was certainly the classiest and best put together event I’ve ever attended. It also had the classiest and most expensive whiskies I’ve ever seen broadly poured at an event – and they were so free with the highballs, iceballs, and mizuwaris too. You really captured all those little extra niceties. I learn from you.

    • G-LO says:

      The only question is, when’s the next event? 😉

    • That’s very sweet of you to say Josh, but I too am a constant student! Your brain is a VAULT of knowledge – it’s so impressive. Thank you for sharing your thoughts here – you always add volumes to these discussions!

      Oh and G-LO – let’s figure that one out! 😀 We’ll be sure Susannah is on the list this time too 🙂

      • G-LO says:

        Yes yes! Let’s get the ball rolling. Sooner rather than later. It sucks that Susannah couldn’t make it to this. I didn’t even know Josh was going until we met up at The Ginger Man. She could have totally been his +1!

  • James ross says:

    I’ve always wanted to try the yamazaki 18 year old.It sells around $225 but i’ve great heard great things about it.I always read your BLOGS.I enjoy single malts of all the regions of scotland

    • Hi James,
      Thank you! It’s always so nice to know that people take the time to read through my posts!

      As for the Yamazaki 18yr, not sure where [in the world] you live but while the bottle price is certainly way up there, I’ve sometimes been able to find a single pour at a far more manageable price (though still super high compared to other whiskies for the same size pour but when you consider the quality, it might be worth it.). To each their own though, enjoying fine whiskies is certainly an expensive habit!

      Cheers & thanks again for taking the time to share your thoughts!
      Allison

  • sfbartender says:

    It sounds like you had a great time and the hosts put on a fantastic event. I enjoyed the article here and it’s very well written. My further comments are on the whiskey reviews pertaining to the suntory line that you have written. I personally find that the majority of the suntory line to be highly overrated. Perhaps the inflated reviews are due in part to a bit of nostalgia created by expressions that can be at times hard to find and bloated reviews by a few media outlets (Wall Street Journal etc) My point is that the whiskey is good but not great. Most Suntory expressions are quite bland and without any real complexity. Having lived for a few years in Japan, I do know that the aim here is to create a very smooth and even keeled expression. (but I can get this with a much cheaper blend) I recently facilitated a blind tasting with some very experienced drinkers that highlighted these expressions Scapa 16 $70, Glenlivet Nadurra $65, Highland Park 18 $110, Yamazaki 18 $140. The Yamazaki came in last place (note that it is the more expensive of the bunch) My point here is that the entire suntory line is highly overrated and over priced.

    • Hi SF Bartender,
      First, thanks for reading and commenting. I always appreciate meeting new commenters & truly thank you for saying Hi. I love thoughts from a variety of positions. While you’ve made your point clear, let me at least offer this as a bit of a counter point (and please note I am in no way affiliated with Suntory, I don’t receive any benefits by supporting or not supporting them in any way. All opinions here are strictly my own). But as a person who produces her own whisky – there are things related to the actual costs of making a whisky that are more reflective in the total outcome of price then age alone. Barrels, for one, are something to consider. Last I checked, new American oak barrel can start in the $80-$100 USD range (wholesale) and go up. To buy a new French limousin barrel (like in my case for Brenne), they can start in the 1200-1500 EUR range. A vast difference in costs right off the bat. I’ve never spoken with Japanese coopers to get a feel for the price of the specific varietal of Japanese oak that Suntory uses for some of their expressions so I can’t speak to their costs but I have a feeling they aren’t inexpensive. It’s just a small point from a producers side of things, age doesn’t ALWAYS dictate price. You could have a 3 yr malt from a far away place cost just as much (or more) then a 12yr single malt Scotch. That’s not uncommon. Price has a lot to do with availability vs demand, how far it has to travel, the taxes that need to be paid along the way, the cost & quality of the goods used … etc.

      Again, not defending Suntory but rather offering another position to the price discussion. And to your point about their high media presence and high pricing, well, we do live in a supply & demand world. It’s why I sometimes want to keep what I’m really enjoying hush-hush for a while! I like being able to afford things – not watch them go quickly beyond my reach. Personally, I’m not so pleased that my standby Yamazaki 12yr keeps climbing in price (and a lot over the last 2 years) as a consumer, there will definitely be a point (soon it seems! sadly) where I switch over to something else that’s comparable in nose/taste but in a more comfortable zone for my wallet.

      As for the taste, to that I can only say to each their own. Taste and smell are so personal – what I might find a truly exciting dram full of unique characteristics, someone else might find to be boring, and vice versa! But that’s the beauty of having so many whiskies from which to choose! More to explore and find the one that speaks to you!

      Thank you again SF Bartender!
      Cheers!
      Allison

      • sfbartender says:

        My point isn’t really to question the price of Suntory. Although it’s much cheaper for them to import VS say a company like Scapa (who is still selling at a much better price) My point is simply that rarely in any blind tasting events does it outscore the expressions I mentioned. These are only a few of the much less expensive alternatives. I’ve reviewed nearly 1,000 expressions in my life, and yes I have been paid at times. I like Suntory, but they are not complex or that unique. Chivas 18 ($60) can compete and does compete well against Yamazaki 18 for example. Go to a site hmmm let’s try the LA Whisk(E)y society. Hibiki 12 and 17 in blind tasting with nearly 4,000 expressions, scores about a C. Not very impressive. You get my point, sorry Suntory being touted as some of the greatest whiskey around always makes me speak up 😛 Cheers

  • PK Read says:

    Just starting to discover Japanese whisky myself, and really enjoying it. What a revelation. Great post and pictures, and very jealous of that kind of tasting opportunity.

  • […] Friday October 18th, 2013, The Whisky Woman and I had the following chat via text messaging while she waited for her ANA flight to take off […]

  • […] some time drinking Suntory whisky at the Noguchi Museum with The Whisky Woman, The Coopered Tot, and one of The Malt […]

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