A friend of mine warned me about Japanese Whiskies for our recent trip to Tokyo. He said they stopped making 2 of the brands. I thought he meant the limited release or some reserve ones I would find a tad expensive to get. How wrong I was. I had read that a certain brand won the world’s best whisky (much to the chargrin of the Scots) last year and thought that was some sort of marketing exercise.
Due to high demand, most places are out of stock of decent Japanese whiskies in Tokyo itself. Forget about duty free at the airport. I couldn’t order one at a hotel in Hong Kong. Some blogs blame rich Chinese tourists. Other blogs blame a recent Japanese drama series about the founder of Japanese whisky. Maybe all three factors were in play.
But I was lucky to check out Shot Bar Zoetrope in Shinjuku, Tokyo. This was on the agenda for the last few trips but I never got around to it. I now kick myself for not getting there earlier. It’s a little hard to find if you don’t know about looking for addresses in Tokyo. When you find the building, you will see his sign showing opening hours from 1900 to 2800 hr. That brought a smile to my face right away.
When you enter, you will see a shortish counter on one side filled with bottles and bottles – whisky heaven. On the other side you have a few tables and seats. I think the room fits 20 people at most. Atsushi Horigami is one dedicated bartender and owner. When I went on a June Thursday night at about 10pm, the bar was half filled and all patrons were English speaking tourists. Three groups of Americans came through and they all asked for peaty and smokey Japanese whisky. Atsushi would wryly reply that Japanese whiskies don’t do any of that. All he could offer was Laphroaig.
But you would not be disappointed with more than 300 bottles of Japanese whiskies.
This one is a good introduction to Japanese whisky – a tasting of Suntory vs Nikka. I was actually smitten by the Yamazaki – a bit lighter. Apparently it was made with the Japanese palate in mind.
Atsushi wasn’t too keen on getting his photo taken. I took this before I heard him saying so politely to some patrons.
I like this little bar and have some home work to do for our next trip. I have also been told Dan Murphy’s is now out of stock of the Hibiki. At least I got a bottle of Yamazaki delivered today and it wasn’t cheap at AUD$105. So my advice to you is to grab any bottle you see then and there. Who knows how long it will take for them to restock.