Whisk(e)y musings read by tens of people worldwide.

Monday, September 11, 2023

Diamond in the Rough

I enjoy travelling.  Going somewhere new is like being reborn.  New shops, new restaurants, and, most importantly, new liquor stores.  Whenever I see the words “liquor store” in a strange new land, a bolt of excitement surges through my body.  Who knows what treasures are lurking behind those burglar-proof doors?  I don’t gamble, but buying a lottery ticket must feel the same way.  What if I win the 50 million?  I can quit my job, move to Hawaii, and just hang out on the beach all day.  More often that not, liquor stores, like lottery tickets, turn out to be a big disappointment.  But, as the saying goes, someone’s gotta win, and sometimes, that someone is you.

On a recent cruise with my family, the liquor stores were few and far between.  In most places, the glaciers outnumbered the people.  Our last port of call, however, was overflowing with potential.  It was a town, and it had liquor stores!  Like a kid who got up a little too early on Christmas morning, I excitedly stood next to the gangplank until I was given the OK to disembark.  A nearby crew member engaged me in conversation:

“You off to see the lumberjack show?”

“No, I’m going to go check out the liquor stores in the area.”


It’s hard to put into words the look he had on his face.  I learned a valuable lesson that day.  Honesty isn’t always the best policy.

After navigating my way through what felt like a maze of fridge magnet, hoodie, and keychain shops, my eyes happened upon a most beautiful sight.  Liquor Store & Bar.  My pace quickened.  I felt like one of those Olympic race walkers.  The whisky section greeted me as I opened the door.  Damn.  Nothing special.  I approached the cashier:

“Excuse me, but where’s the other liquor store?”

“About a mile, that way.”

She pointed in the direction of the store’s wine section.


A 20 minute walk.  In the direction of the store’s wine section.  Should I?  Absolutely!  I felt like Lewis and Clark.  I was about to leave the comfort and safety of the fridge magnet stores for the prospect of something greater.  There was only one road.  I followed it.  For roughly a mile.  Without incident.  There it was.  Liquor store #2.  It was a fair bit larger than the first one.  The door bing-bonged as I entered.  So many bottles.  Is it?  It can’t be.  It is!

Yamazaki distillery is the birthplace of Japanese whisky.  The company was initially called Kotobukiya.  It was renamed Suntory in 1963.  The “tory” is for Shinjiro Torii.  He was the man who founded Kotobukiya.  Torii’s first “whisky” was a blend of God knows what from God knows where called Hermes Old Scotch Whisky.  His first actual whisky (and the first-ever Japanese whisky) was released in 1929.  It was called Shirofuda (“white label”).  Japanese people, at the time, wanted a whisky that was sweet, fruity, and approachable.  White Label wasn’t that.  Many described it as “burnt.”  Changes had to be made.  Torii found the sweet spot in 1937.  Kakubin (“square bottle”) was a much better fit for the Japanese palate.  It’s still available today.

I couldn’t remember the last time I saw one.  How on earth did a case find its way up here?  Yamazaki products have been virtually extinct since Jim Murray made Yamazaki Sherry Cask his World Whisky of the Year in 2015.  Whisky is a real guessing game.  It’s not like beer.  Beer is made for today.  Whisky is made for tomorrow, and the future in the present is nothing more than a guess based on the past.  Yamazaki 12 is matured in American, Spanish, and Japanese oak.  It drinks rather well for a 43% product.  The nose is gorgeous.  Sweet, fruity, and floral.  Vanilla.  Honeydew melon.  Nice tannic bite on the finish.  Very clean.  Very meticulous.  Very Japanese.  Best cruise ever!

Happy dramming,


Instead of dying she shall merely fall into a profound slumber that will last a hundred years. -  Charles Perrault,  The Sleeping Beauty in ...