Japanese Whisky Dinner at Second Story Liquor Bar
I was introduced to the beauty of Japanese Whisky (like Canada and Scotland, it is spelled without an "e") in 2012 at an Arizona Cocktail Week seminar with Neyah White of Suntory. Single malts or blends, I've been a fan ever since. Second Story Liquor Bar held a Japanese Whisky pairing dinner on July 29th and it was a can't-miss event. The $99 cost included a 3-course paired tasting menu featuring oysters, foie gras, and Kobe beef (and a bonus dessert course) by Chef Josh Bracher "highlighting the beauty and complexity of Japanese Whisky and the spices and style of Asia". It was hosted by Barman John Christie (see my interview in Arizona Foothills Magazine here), a whisky expert with a history degree, who discussed the origin, variety, and methodology of Japanese whisky. Among the wealth of information he shared, we learned about Masataka Taketsuru, who studied chemistry at the University of Glasgow in Scotland and founded the Japanese whisky industry in the 1920s with Shinjiro Torii, the importance of water source and environmental factors, the use of Mizunara, a rare Japanese oak, and the reason for the distinctive 24-faceted Hibiki bottles (they represent Japan's 24 seasons).
Second Story Liquor Bar with its intimate cocktail lounge decor was the perfect setting.
As I pondered on a similarly-themed pre-dinner cocktail to start, John suggested a Japanese whisky sour and it was a brilliant idea, made with Yamazaki 12-year, citrus, orgeat and topped with port.
It turned out to be the perfect introduction to what followed: Yamazaki 12-year and its citrus notes paired with a trio of pristine Wellfleet oysters embellished with senmai-zuke ("thousand slices pickles") turnip, Hibiki 12-year's mellow sweetness partnered with foie gras and nasu dengaku (miso-glazed eggplant), lightly-peated Hakushu 12-year poured with luxurious Kobe strip with truffle-soy and Japanese vegetables, and a finale of decadent butter cake with Nikka Coffey Grain, a rare grain whisky distilled through a Coffey still. A Japanese whisky feast indeed. Look for the next Japanese Whisky Dinner in September to be paired with chocolate.