Hey Kids, Let’s Put on a Japanese Whisky Tasting in the Barn!


Hakushu and Yoichi in BW

On Thursday night, 4th of July eve, G-LO and I got together for a tasting of two well respected Japanese whiskies. No, G-LO didn’t leave his tony mansion in the Northeast and, no, I didn’t leave my shoebox-by-the-shore in Southern California. We instead met halfway, so to speak, using the Information Superhighway which seems to be all the rage what with sky high gas prices, crazy airlines that charge for icky blankets, and our general frugality (read: cheapskatedness). Below is our super serious discussion — 3,000 miles apart, very late night for G-LO and kind of late for me — about Hakushu 18 and Nikka Yoichi 15.

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Hakushu 18

G-LO: I think we should start with the Hakushu. Have you tried these before?

AK: Only the Hakushu Heavily Peated at a bar with Lee. Something like $30 for a pour. Glad this one is “free”. I am poured and ready to go.

G-LO: Same here. Hakushu 18 to start.

AK: Hakushu 18 sounds like a motorcycle part.

G-LO: Yeah it does. A part for a high performance crotch rocket. I’m thinking a Hayabusa.

AK: Is that an engine part for my ’92 Toyota Celica? I miss that car. Black, sunroof, fast. Flew to Vegas in that baby. First kissed my wife in that car. Not so great for baby car seats or anyone over 6′ tall though.

G-LO: I’m sticking with the Hayabusa. Besides, I’m more of a Honda guy.

AK: It was a black car inside and out, and this Hakushu has no black in it at all. Love the color: golden brown, which is not exactly a chick magnet color in cars.

RAL---Brown-Shades

G-LO: Golden brown? You mean beige?

AK: Beige sounds so beige. This is prettier. Softer. It looks Japanese. Whatever the hell that means. Granted, my house’s interior is brown and browns. But this seems different. Not like the paint we agonized over for months about or the stain for the cabinets.

G-LO: Don’t start with the paint color talk. Getting PTSD from painting the dining room. This is a pretty color. That shade of brown that you get with a perfectly cooked piece of tempura.

Hakushu 18 in the Glass

AK: Tempura!! Yes! Loves me the tempura. Just not the shrimp. I like the carrot and yam. Yum. This definitely has the same golden color without the greasiness. Painting and whisky should never go together unless it means you’re ready to drink yourself into oblivion after the third coat in the bedroom.

G-LO: Third coat? Sounds like we have a similar painting style, i.e. too thin. Though thin and me aren’t exactly synonymous. Except for the hairline of course.

AK: If I’m not getting carpal tunnel syndrome pain and cramps, the paint job isn’t done yet.

G-LO: Primer and then two coats followed by a week of touch up. Seriously. We keep talking painting and I’m gonna start chugging! Focus!

AK: Where’s Bob Vila? This isn’t NPR? I’m really bad at this nosing business. But I just love to smell whisky. And my schnozz says there ain’t no turpentine or paint in this stuff!

G-LO: This stuff be fruity! No?

AK: I’m so used to scotch that when I come across something not from Scotland, it takes me a minute to adjust my kilt. Fruity, but don’t ask me which one. Maybe a little green apple?

G-LO: Speaking of kilts, do they have a Tilted Kilt out there?

AK: Not sure but I sadly experienced a Tilted Kilt in Orlando. I still want my tip back and two hours of my life back!

G-LO: That bad?

AK: Pretty bad. I was with four customers who invited me. Waitress couldn’t spell beer. Plenty o’ Crappy might be a better name for the joint.

AK: It really smells lovely. Light. I like that even though peated is my my thing.

G-LO: With ya on the apple. Lightly spiced no less. Can I go with Fuji Apple?

AK: Fuji works. Mt. Fuji is better. d’oh!! I’m going in.

photo_hakushu_09

G-LO: But of course. Since the Hakushu Distillery is at high altitude, Mt. Fuji apple it is!

AK: I’m still nosing which is a big reason why I love whisky. Slows me down which is good and bad.

G-LO: There’s a touch of tobacco in there. Really good tobacco. Cuban seed.

AK: I get that too. Thought coffee at first. But tobacco is better.

AK: Not sure what I’m getting on the first sip. Funny how some are a bit oily. None of that here. Which reminds me, I need to get my car in for an oil change. Every 5,000 miles per Toyota’s specs. Remember changing your own oil? Yuck!

G-LO: Changing oil? Never done it. I’m a subcontracting kinda guy. Never touched a lawnmower either.

AK: I grew up in a non-subcontracting house. Me and pop would change oil and points. Jews Who Change Oil. Go figure, boychick.

G-LO: The Alemonger would be horrified.

AK: And I mowed lawns. Way too many lawns. I come from a long line of DIY Jews. I’d never do it today. I won’t add memory to a computer anymore, though I used to. I’m more UDIY now.

G-LO: According to The Alemonger, power tools are the work of the Gentile. Then again, he thinks cheese is anti-Semitic. So, take what he says with a grain of salt.

AK: This stuff is so darn light but I get a bite too. 43.5%. Feels hotter than that on the finish. I love power tools, and love how the power builds up in them. Pulling the trigger slowly on a Black & Decker power drill is like this Hakushu.

G-LO: Ok, ok. I’m going in now. You’re right. Not oily at all. Starts off slow and then it builds. More of a nibble than a bite. And by the way, the Tilted Kilt’s whisky list is pretty pedestrian.

AK: I remember being highly underwhelmed by the booze list there and ordering a Barq’s Root Beer just to have something in my hand other than a gun which I would used to blow my brains out. Food was wholly unexceptional. Look at us!! We’re Yelp for Dummies!

G-LO: I can respect that. I would have ordered a beer. I always start with the beer menu when I go anywhere. There’s value there. I go beer, then cocktails, then wine. Whisky is for after dinner if I don’t care for the dessert menu.

AK: Very Moneyball of you. It’s all about on-base percentage. There’s a build up with this whisky. I like it. Not peated, right? Maybe that tobacco is giving me false smoke signals.

G-LO: Loved Moneyball! The book, not the movie. I’m all about looking for the sweet spot, i.e. getting the biggest bang for my buck. And yes, this whisky totally builds as you get to the finish. No clue what kind of barrels they use.

AK: The beauty of not being a cocktail/beer guy is no wasting time. Right to the whisky. I can’t stay up late so I need the good stuff sooner! That being said, I was with fellow whiskyfabricites Allison Patel and Rob Gard tonight at a fun little nouveau pizza joint in Venice, CA. They had Brenne on the menu! I had an Old Fashioned with Brenne. Enjoyed it immensely.

G-LO: Interesting. I like Brenne on it’s own. There are some great beers out there and some kick ass cocktails being made right now.

AK: Rob said if a cocktail has more than four ingredients, it’s too complicated and TAKES TOO LONG! Totally get that theory. And I’d add, too freakin’ expensive!

G-LO: I agree with Rob. That’s why I hate recipes.

AK: I love Brenne on its own too so this was different.

G-LO: It’s already easy drinking, so I wouldn’t want to water it down any.

AK: There was a cocktail called a Dommo. Mint, Yellow Chartreuse, lemon, ginger and bourbon. Rob had it made with Brenne instead of bourbon. It was five ingredients breaking the Rob Gard rule but well worth it. He invented a cocktail! Thomas Edison of Cocktails, that one is.

G-LO: Speaking of easy to drink, the Hayabusa 1800cc is way easy to drink. Though it’s more of a rolling start vs. a standing start. No wheel spin!

AK: I like the finish on the Hakushu. I definitely get the tobacco a bit more there.

G-LO: I need a touch more. In my glass I mean.

AK: What’s Hayabusa? I ain’t not brain surgeon. And NO touching! This is a family show!

G-LO: Sorry. Forgot you’re not a car guy or a motorcycle guy.

AK: It’s a car? I swear you were going to say it’s some Japanese liqueur distilled on the thighs of women from the Ginza.

G-LO: Watch your mouth! Who you calling a Ginza? Is it me or is this whisky perhaps a bit too subdued? The finish is the big reward for me. I’d probably like this more if I didn’t know the price AND if I wasn’t the one that bought it. It’s really good, but I prefer the Hakushu 12.

AK: I’m a peat freak so if I don’t taste dead vegetation from the Bronze Age then it falls into the Subdued or Subdude category.

G-LO: You’re very focused. Subdude. Nice one. Less of a dude?

AK: Us Single celled organisms are just that way. I barely respond to light. Unless it’s peated.

G-LO: You an Amoeba or more of a Paramecium? Ha! That’s about all I got outta junior year Biology. Biology would have been more fun if I went to a coed high school.

AK: Paramecium! $2.00! Get your Paramecium! One isn’t enough!

G-LO: What does Rob say about five syllable words?

AK: I’ll UNDENIABLY ask him. No wimins?! Graduate of Trappist Monk High School? Did you guys have a football team?

G-LO: Just one woman. Sister Leah. She was the football coach. And does ice count as one of the ingredients in his rule?

AK: Don’t know his Ice Ice Baby theory but we had a interesting convo with two friends of Allison’s from the LBC about the big fat monstrous ice cube trend. That’s Long Beach, CA, yeah boyyyyy!

G-LO: Love the monster ice cubes! Especially when they’re crystal clear. So sexy!

AK: I know Viking, Sub Zero, or some overpriced fridge company is making a freezer right now to make big old cubes that will bash you in the nose in the comfort of your own home while “the eggs are cooling, the butter’s getting hard, and the Jell-O’s jiggling” all for under $10k. Plus pretty blue lights when you open the door at 2:00 am searching for chocolate milk.

G-LO: I never paid attention to ice until my first $18 cocktail in NYC.

AK: I can’t afford to pay attention. It is interesting how they don’t water down drinks as you think they might.

G-LO: When a drink costs $18, I’m friggin paying attention! I was transfixed by the ice cubes.

AK: I had a cocktail a few nights ago with ROOT and the bartender used a big coffee ice cube whatever that is. This a level of fluid dynamics that is beyond me. It was dark as my soul but more like a venti drip.

G-LO: By the way, definitely getting that tobacco in the aftertaste. The finish is where this shines. What’s a venti drip?

AK: Some Starbucks thing that my wife orders. No COFFEE QUESTIONS! Do I look like Howard Schultz?! I like the finish too. I sleep through the middle of movies anyway. Soooo, did I ever tell you that I like sniffing “empty” whisky glasses? Well, ones that had whisky in them. It’s a thing I do. Don’t ask.

G-LO: Huh. Interesting. Lemme try that. I usually just go for a refill…That’s a great smelling glass!

AK: The glass is coated in the spirit. It’s not like when the fluid is in there.  It’s different somehow.

G-LO: A line from a cheesy western just popped into my head: Gimme a glass of whisky in a dirty glass! I’d drink whisky outta this glass for sure!

AK: Indeed! It’s like smelling a frying pan after you’ve cooked in it.

G-LO: A seasoned glass. How very green of us. The verdict on the Hakushu 18?

AK: Exactly! I like it but not sure I’d buy it. But I like the smell and the finish quite a bit. Don’t tell me the price. I don’t want to know.

G-LO: Ok. I won’t spill. I will say this, it was 2x the cost of the Hakushu 12, but not 2x as good by any stretch.

AK: I have no idea what that means but if Train A, traveling 70 miles per hour, leaves Buffalo heading toward Schenectady, 270 miles away, at the same time Train B, traveling 60 mph, leaves Buffalo heading toward Schenectady. When do the two trains meet?

G-LO: Ummm.

AK: Please show your work.

Nikka Yoichi 15

G-LO: Again with the PTSD. Nikka time, baby?

AK: This Yoichi 15 looks beautiful.

G-LO: It really does look pretty in the glass.

AK: At this point, Totie Fields would look good in that glass. Too soon?

G-LO: Who the hell is Totie Fields?

AK: I knew you were going to say that. Google her.

G-LO: Geez. Dead at 48 in ’78!

AK: I love the name amber. Works well for strippers and for whisky color. It says it all, though I have no idea what amber is but she way overcharged me last time. That was clearly NOT 10 minutes! Funny broad. Totie. Not Amber. One leg. Again, not Amber.

G-LO: You know, I’m 47. If I were Totie, I’d have 9 months left.

AK: So, keep drinking. You never know.

G-LO: Good point. That was a Limpd kinda thing to say, by the way.

AK: Too many actuarial tables for that guy. The Yoichi is more, what, medicine-y “on the nose” (air quotes!).

G-LO: Interesting. Like a butterscotch flavored Band-Aid?

AK: This is one that bugs me. It’s a smell I know but can’t nail. Like Amber. It’s going to drive me nuts. Oh, whyyy do I tryyy?!

G-LO: Cause it’s fun! And it keeps you from just doing shots. Think of it as a spiritual experience. It’s sweet, yet spicy and medicine-y too.

AK: Right! You are the Gandhi of Booze.  Must be the bald head and robe.

G-LO: Can I get Ben Kingsley to play me in my biopic? It’d be a really short movie though.

AK: You want Ben Kingsley. You’ll take F. Murray Abraham. You settle for G-LO. #castingproblems.

Nikka Yoichi 15 in the Glass

AK: There’s a sweet musty smell to it. Like a closet that hasn’t been opened in awhile and you find that old sweater from college with Amber’s phone number on a napkin in it.

G-LO: I’m not gonna ask the condition of that napkin. Nor do I wanna know what you had to pay to get that number.

AK: I think the napkin is in better shape than Amber.

G-LO: The power of suggestion is strong with you.

AK: It’s the Midi-Chlorian. I take supplements.

G-LO: Damn you and your five syllable words!

AK: Interesting Ar-tic-u-la-tion. Watch the movie, young Skywalker. These aren’t the five syllable words you looking for.

G-LO: These aren’t the five syllable words I’m looking for.

G-LO: Now I’m getting musty grapes or something like that. We got Band-Aids, butterscotch, musty grapes, and maybe some cinnamon? Whatever it is, I love how this smells.

AK: I was thinking cloves but maybe cinnamon.

G-LO: Whatever works for ya.

AK: Me too. I’m all about old Band-Aids.

G-LO: I’m goin’ in!

AK: Yes, yes, you’re already wet. Might as well. Bottom of my tongue is burning like a house of love! Yowza!!

G-LO: Mmmm. This is more to my liking! A touch of oiliness? This has much more body.

AK: Definitely oily. I’m coated like Kojak in the episode where they bust the boys on the waterfront. This feels heavier. Apples and oranges compared to the Hakushu. Denser. More dense. Densapaloozaful.

G-LO: Spiced apple for sure.

AK: I really get the cinnamon now.

G-LO: Dunno about the orange, though there might be a bit of orange zestiness to it. Lightly bitter oiliness that you get from an orange peel perhaps? All the rage with the craft cocktail community!

AK: Not sure about citrus. Bottom of the tongue is buzzing. Kind of weird. Maybe a little mint toothpaste on the gums. I need to see the dentist, by the way.

G-LO: Again? Sounds like our teeth come from the same gene pool. Remind me to tell you the gold crown story one day.

AK: Oh, I know zest. Years ago I used to make this rum based thing called Christmas Shrub.

G-LO: You’re more zippy than zesty. Just sayin’.

AK: Thank you very little. Infused white rum with zest of lemon and orange with cloves, cinnamon, and caramelized sugar. Reduced this junk all down and put in a bottle for a few weeks with more rum. Sweet and syrupy, and kick ass. Served warm or on the rocks. Zest was huge in the flavor.

G-LO: You’re such a fancy lad. The finish on this one is sooo good! This Nikka is fo’shizzle!

AK: I’m fo’shizzling once more.

G-LO: I wouldn’t say it blows the Hakushu outta the water, but I definitely like it more.

AK: The Yoichi is more complex. That smell is still bugging me. Like I’m forgetting to do something. Did I turn off the stove? Did I close the garage door?.  But there is more going on with this one.

G-LO: I think so too. Voluptuous?

AK: Thanks. You’re not so bad yourself. Come here often?

G-LO: Hello, Sailor!

AK: Hello, Larry.

G-LO: Hagman?

AK: Dead.

G-LO: Yep.

AK: Abe Vigoda. Not dead. Go figure.

G-LO: Go Fish too.

AK: Tessio. It’s the smart move; Tessio was always smarter. Think the finish is better on the Hakushu but the Yoichi is better overall.

G-LO: Clemenza was too busy worrying about dinner.

AK: Don’t forget the canolli!

G-LO: See? I respect that.

AK: And watch out for the kids when you’re backing out.

G-LO: Screw that. They need to watch out for me. Damn suburb kids.

AK: You and your Big Wheel.

G-LO: Never had one.

AK: We got mattresses to buy!

G-LO: I’d take this whisky to the mattresses with me. It’s comforting. And hypoallergenic?

AK: Yep. Second go around is better. Ask for it by name. Accept no substitutes.

G-LO: I think I understand what you mean about the finish. The Hakushu finish is fantastic, but overall, the Yoichi is more fun.

AK: Time for some glass sniffing which is legal is California. I would have bet your last dollar on the Hakushu being my favorite. I get sucked in by the name. I’m so juvenile. Or is it Jewvenile? Waa waa waaaa

G-LO: Where’s that instant rimshot link when you need it?

AK: Much better smelling empty glass. I could lay down with this one for awhile. I shall name her Amber. And it was good.

G-LO: Same here. I was expecting the same results. I like the Hakushu but LOVE the Yoichi. FYI, the Yoichi is a relative bargain. The ROK picked it up at Narita Duty Free.

AK: Agreed. The Nikka Amber, er, Yoichi, is the pick here.

G-LO: I think it was like $60. The US price is around $90 to $100, I believe.

AK: I’d fork out for the Yoichi which by the way, the 11 year old daughter pronounced far better than I. Two years of Japanese classes finally paid off.

G-LO: Yo-ee-chee? How hard is that?

AK: She’s in bed. I’ll have her call you. Japanese friends of our say she nails the pronunciation. I’m just happy to say tempura correctly and not get a burger served to me.

G-LO: Impressive. Well this was good fun and kinda weird. No?

AK: No. I mean Yes. No, I mean, yes, it was good and kinda weird. Big thanks to YOU, G-LO-san for the samples. May your Origami never be unfolded.

G-LO: I think we have a Star Wars Origami book around here somewhere. Gracias, AK-san!

AK: I need a Star Wars Origami Lego Book. Everything especially an A-Wing Interceptor Starfighter is Awesome!

G-LO: I have no idea what that means.

AK: Say goodnight, G-LO.

G-LO: Goodnight, G-LO.

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Brew News: The Randall Jr. – Is Sam Calagione Possessed By Billy Mays?


Let me preface this post by saying that I know this is the guys at Dogfish Head (DFH) doing a goofy, spoofy video, and if it was a fictional product, it would be a good laugh, but this is for a real product, and I think Sam Calagione, in his quest to sell “Slightly Off-Center Products”, has gone too far and actually become possessed by the ghost of the late, slightly off-center infomercial king, Billy Mays.

The genesis of this post was G-LO emailing me the YouTube video posted below to provoke a response, because he knows that I have a Hate/Love relationship with Dogfish Head. In fact, it would be better to characterize it as a Hate/Respect relationship. I respect DFH, because it’s hard to argue that they’re not an important brewery in the growth of the craft Continue reading