Boy, do we have a good episode for you this week. Over the past several years, Japanese whisky has been experiencing so much international recognition to the point that there is currently a scarcity problem. Lynda and Iris decided to unpack its history, the story of its rise in popularity and the future of this trendy beverage. You also get to listen to Lynda and Iris get drunk on air, forget how to pronounce words, and butcher a whole lot of Japanese names.
We interview two very knowledgeable industry professionals: Rachel Kim, a cocktails and spirits consultant based in New York City and instructor at the Astor Center, as well as Elliot Faber, Beverage Director of Yardbird, Hong Kong and author of Sake: The History, Stories and Craft of Japan's Artisanal Breweries. Both discuss what sets Japanese whisky apart and why it’s so hard to get your hands on it these days.
“It’s not about Japanese whisky being better—it’s about Japanese whisky being limited in its availability and then the average quality being very high.” – Elliot Faber, Beverage Director of Yardbird.
We start off the episode introducing what we’re drinking while we record. Lynda opts for Michter's Small Batch Bourbon, while Iris does a tasting of Yoichi NAS (No Age Statement, at 11am). We also discuss whether or not that makes one a degenerate.
Scotch, rye, bourbon…what do all these terms mean? Lynda breaks down all the different main types of whisky in the world so that we're all on the same page. Iris then briefly describes the history of Japanese whisky production. We then get into how it’s consumed in Japan and how it got so popular both domestically and internationally.
“There's a huge movement in the US towards craft and heritage. You can make fun of all those terms all you like but what it just means is that there is more of a consideration towards what we’re consuming and the effort that went into it. Everyone’s general awareness around what they’ve been consuming and how it’s made has made everyone also veer towards maybe less industrial-focused products and more to things that have a little bit more character.” – Rachel Kim, cocktails and spirits consultant.
Canned whisky highballs, anyone?
We also talk about TV and films’ effect on whisky consumption, especially Mad Men, Lost in Translation and Japanese TV drama Massan, a show about Japanese whisky industry founder Masataka Taketsuru and his wife Rita.
New to Japanese whisky and don’t know where to start? Tune in to find out Lynda and Elliot’s guides for beginners and which bottles to look out for if you want to get into it!