Los Angeles Scotch Club
Japanese Whisky Showcase

Katana of West Hollywood - Sunday, Mar. 24th, 2011

Those of us that know Scotch know that here is a very serious competitor from the east... Japanese Whisky. Japanese Whisky is basically Scotch that's not from Scotland, much like sparkling white wine is the same as Champagne. Japan is probably the only country (England included) that can say that they are making Scotch-style whisky up to par with that in Scotland, and they’re starting to beat Scotch in the big competitions. Why didn't you know this? The greedy bums keep most of it for themselves, that's why!

This was a special evening with great whisky at Katana of West Hollywood. We had the plush patio reserved for a special event co-hosted by Neyah White of Suntory, who presented :
- Yamazaki 12 and Yamazaki 18
- Chita Grain Whisky
- Hibiki 12
- Yamazaki Barrel Samples (Japanese, Spanish, and American Oak)
- The incredibly rare, expensive, and luscious Suntory 1984.

Not to be outdone (although Neyah made it difficult), the LASC brought something special too:
- A rare and highly sought Hibiki 21, that we had specially couriered from Tokyo.
- Ichiro's Malt - King of Hearts from Hanyu, a distillery that no longer exists.
- Nikka 17 Taketsuru and a Nikka straight-from-the-cask.
- Hakushu 1989 Sherry Cask bottling for The Whisky Exchange’s 10th Anniversary – A Malt Maniac award winner.

Suntory also generously supplied a Yamazaki 18 that was auctioned at the tasting with the proceeds going to the Japan Earthquake and Tsunami Relief Fund, to help our friends across the sea.
Only the Yamazaki 12, Yamazaki 18, and Hibiki 12 are currently available in the United States, so this was a special treat for us, as was learning the history of Japanese whisky and its humble origin of a young Japanese man wandering Scotland for a job.

Relatively Interesting Facts about Japanese Whisky

The distiller "father" of Japanese Whisky is Masataka Taketsuru, who wandered Scotland in 1919 until Longmorn finally gave him a job.  He returned to Japan with distillery knowledge and a Scottish bride, Rita.

Rita Taketsuru, although unpopular during WWII, has become a cult icon.  There is even an existing fanclub.  Apparently she was considered pretty "hot" at the time.

The business "father" of J-Whisky is Shinjiro Torii who hired Taketsuru to make the first decent whisky in Japan at Yamazaki.  The company became Suntory, opened another distillery at Hakushu, and is now one of the largest whisky makers in the world.

Taketsuru left "Suntory" under less than friendly terms and opened the Yoichi distillery in northern Japan, a climate similar to Scotland. The company became Nikka which opened a second distillery, Miyagikyo, and is now Japan’s #2 whisky maker.

Suntory genetically engineered the world’s first blue rose, in part because of the color's relation to Scotland (St. Andrew's Cross).  It's called "Applause".  (yeah it’s kinda lavender)

Suntory owns Bowmore, Auchentoshan, and Glen Garioch.  Nikka owns Ben Nevis.


Hanyu operated from 1941-2000. After closing, the founder's grandson, Ichiro Akuto, bought the remaining stock and began the Playing Card Series with 52 + 1 different bottlings. He has now started a new distillery, Chichibu.


Malt Maniacs quote: "The quality of the average Japanese whisky has now surpassed the quality of the average Scotch whisky."  (never mention this or England in a Scottish pub)

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