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.
Entering 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.
It 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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
November 29, 2011 § 2 Comments
If you live in or plan to visit NYC, read on! These two events are different and interesting enough that I wanted to give others a chance to attend instead of doing a post-event review. (See, aren’t I nice!?)
These are hosted by Le Dû’s Wines … who has been building quite a nice collection of whiskies over the last 6 months and are taking this recent addition to their shop quite seriously (which makes me happy!). You may remember me giving them a shout out earlier this month for hosting the exclusive Louis XIII tasting I blogged about HERE. …
Get out your calendars are read on!
WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 7th
Click on the box above to be taken to their site or call 212-924-6999 for reservations.
THURSDAY, DECEMBER 15th
This next event is FREE but invite only and space is extremely limited. Consider this your personal invitation. If you are interested (and why wouldn’t you be!?) email JT Robertson (jt at leduwines dot come) asap for a spot.
Here are the details: Free but invite only Signatory and Cigar tasting on December 15th. Signatory’s Brand Manager will be tasting 8 or so awesome single barrel Scotches in a super swag cigar shop in Midtown (complete with a smoking lounge, of course). What could be better? Get on the list now to get the full scoop!
THANKS for the 411 JT!!! You know you’ll be seeing me behind a whisky glass! Can’t wait!
October 27, 2011 § Leave a comment
To conclude this week’s post: HIBIKI 12 REVIEW, I thought it best to end with one of my favorite scenes from the movie that inspired so many of us to seek out a bottle of Hibiki in the first place; Lost in Translation with Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson.
As an added bonus, I have also included the full English translation of the Director and Interpreter’s conversation below the clip (spoiler alert, it’s great!). May I suggest before pressing play, first throw an ice-cube in your favorite rocks glass and top it off with a nice blended whisky? … enjoy.
And now, for the translation!
DIRECTOR (in Japanese to the interpreter): The translation is very important, O.K.? The translation.
INTERPRETER: Yes, of course. I understand.
DIRECTOR: Mr. Bob-san. You are sitting quietly in your study. And then there is a bottle of Suntory whiskey on top of the table. You understand, right? With wholehearted feeling, slowly, look at the camera, tenderly, and as if you are meeting old friends, say the words. As if you are Bogie in “Casablanca,” saying, “Cheers to you guys,” Suntory time!
INTERPRETER: He wants you to turn, look in camera. O.K.?
BOB: That’s all he said?
INTERPRETER: Yes, turn to camera.
BOB: Does he want me to, to turn from the right or turn from the left?
INTERPRETER (in very formal Japanese to the director): He has prepared and is ready. And he wants to know, when the camera rolls, would you prefer that he turn to the left, or would you prefer that he turn to the right? And that is the kind of thing he would like to know, if you don’t mind.
DIRECTOR (very brusquely, and in much more colloquial Japanese): Either way is fine. That kind of thing doesn’t matter. We don’t have time, Bob-san, O.K.? You need to hurry. Raise the tension. Look at the camera. Slowly, with passion. It’s passion that we want. Do you understand?
INTERPRETER (In English, to Bob): Right side. And, uh, with intensity.
BOB: Is that everything? It seemed like he said quite a bit more than that.
DIRECTOR: What you are talking about is not just whiskey, you know. Do you understand? It’s like you are meeting old friends. Softly, tenderly. Gently. Let your feelings boil up. Tension is important! Don’t forget.
INTERPRETER (in English, to Bob): Like an old friend, and into the camera.
DIRECTOR: You understand? You love whiskey. It’s Suntory time! O.K.?
DIRECTOR: O.K.? O.K., let’s roll. Start.
BOB: For relaxing times, make it Suntory time.
DIRECTOR: Cut, cut, cut, cut, cut! (Then in a very male form of Japanese, like a father speaking to a wayward child) Don’t try to fool me. Don’t pretend you don’t understand. Do you even understand what we are trying to do? Suntory is very exclusive. The sound of the words is important. It’s an expensive drink. This is No. 1. Now do it again, and you have to feel that this is exclusive. O.K.? This is not an everyday whiskey you know
INTERPRETER: Could you do it slower and —
DIRECTOR: With more ecstatic emotion.
INTERPRETER: More intensity.
DIRECTOR (in English): Suntory time! Roll.
BOB: For relaxing times, make it Suntory time.
DIRECTOR: Cut, cut, cut, cut, cut! God, I’m begging you.
(Translation credit: What Else Was Lost in Translation By MOTOKO RICH)
And if you got through all that and want just a bit more, well, what could be better than a little “Lip My Stockings” ?? Amazing movie. Great whisky. Perfect for a rainy Thursday!
October 25, 2011 § 26 Comments
To say I’m a fan of Japanese Whisky is a huge understatement. Unfortunately for me, I live in the US where our options for Japanese Whiskies are very limited. Luckily, we do have access to a few product by Suntory.
While I’m a bigger fan of their Yamazaki single malts (see my earlier post HERE), I do also try to keep a bottle of the Hibiki 12 on hand, despite it’s somewhat higher price tag (between $60-$70 USD). The Hibiki series is a blend of more than 30 different single malts and grain whisky from the Chita distillery. The oldest of the malt being a 75 year old Yamazaki that has been aged in 100% Japanese oak casks. Once the whiskies have been combined, Suntory finishes them for 1 year in matured umé (plumb wine) barrels.
Ok, let’s get down to business!
ABV: 43% (86 proof)
NOSE: lavender floral, burnt sugar, honey, fresh apple, maturing cask “dust”, a light apple cider vinegar next to the rooibos tea notes
TASTE: Beautifully balanced and changes evenly through the various flavors like the changing of the seasons. Crème brûlée, caramel apple to lemon peel, then moves into some spiced earthy tea and light wood flavors
FINISH: Long and lingering, rounded oak, rich earth under the lighter notes, ends with a bit of fresh ground black pepper on the tip of the tongue and lips
Have you tried this before? What do you think?
August 9, 2011 § 14 Comments
For these warm summer nights – I love nothing more than to sit outside with a glass of Suntory’s Yamazaki 12 (or 18!) with 1 ice cube it if it’s really sticky outside and a big plate of cured meats, raw-milk cheeses and baguette.
Welcome to Summer PERFECTED
The Japanese whiskies have the structure and depth of some of the great Single Malt Scotches but by catering to a Japanese palete (think about their cuisine; light & delicate but full of flavor), their whiskies often have a crisp, pure taste and a refreshing mouthfeel (see where I’m going with this!?). The Yamazaki’s are great whiskies to drink during the warmer months and perfect companions to cut through the various flavors in the slightly oily bites of your charcuterie & cheese plate!
On the nose: Layers and layers of flavors. You can have fun just smelling this beauty! Lots of vanilla and caramel from it’s time spent in the American, Japanese and Port casks. Honey, floral, apple, orange, touch of smoke
On the palate: Mellow pepper up front, moves to floral, ends with smoked-honey
Finish: Lingers on the tip of the tongue, pepper dissolves quickly for me but the floral notes and smoked-honey stick around for a bit
Now, to be drinking outside in NYC, that usually means you’re at a bar/restaurant but if you’re lucky enough to have a balcony, roof or garden you can relax in – invite me over! er, I mean …all the better! (My fun summer outdoor drinking suggestion: Vintry Wine & Whiskey!) Cheers!