...where distraction is the main attraction.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Highlander Inn Tokyo: Part 2, More Pours? More Pours.

Part 1 was on Monday.
Part 2 is today!

The stash, each shelf three or four bottles deep...

After I completed the Ben Nevis Quartet, Suzuki-san produced this single PX Puncheon of '04 GlenDronach and asked if I had tried it yet. Before I could complete the word no (or iie, if I attempted Japanese at that moment), he'd already poured me a good drop.

*!free pour!*
GlenDronach 12 year old 2004 - for BarShow 2016 - cask 5527, PX Puncheon, 58.6%abv

To my surprise there was a substantial combination of green herbs (in the palate) and baking spices (in the nose) balancing out the usual PX grape jam attack. I'm normally not a PX cask fan but this was a good drink with its sweetness at a moderate level.
Rating: B-/B (82-85)

Next, Suzuki-san produced this whisky that was selected by the Japanese owner of Highlander Inn Craigellachie (and, I think, Tokyo). It's a full strength batch of 36yo blended scotch whisky (though whiskybase says it's a blended malt).

BLOGGERSPLAIN:  Oishii means "delicious" in Japanese.

*!free pour!*
Oishii Wisukii 36 year old small batch blended whisky - 51.1%abv

Its nose is gorgeous. Gentle sherry notes merge with mild peat, along with moments of stone fruits and citrus fruits. The palate is lightly sweet with an earthy peatiness. Then a blast of grapefruit. Dried fruit, tobacco and grapefruit in the finish.

This is great, very complex and easily consumed, and only available at the two Highlander Inns. Oishii indeed.
Rating: B+/A- (89-91)

I was unable to purchase the most recent Springbank Local Barley, or should I say I was unamused at its $160+ American price. But... having spied Highlander Inn's bottle on the shelf, I knew it would be one of the final drinks of this visit. I'm thankful to say I received the bottle's inaugural pour.

Springbank 11 year old 2006 Local Barley (Bere) - 53.1%abv

Color - Amber
Nose - Medium peating and a mild float of oak. Notes of maple syrup and pecan rolls.
Palate - White fruits and white peaches on top. Mild peat in the middle. Richer here than on the nose, almost candied. Water brings out a fresh herbal bitterness.
Finish - Medicinal and sweet.

Commentary - There's no denying this is good, but it's missing the complexity, balance and (important!) sheer deliciousness of the 16yo Local Barley. I'd also take either of the Springbank Greens over it. So, if you were kicking yourself over not getting this bottle, stop kicking yourself. If you're now kicking yourself for getting this bottle, stop kicking yourself. It's still good!
Rating - B (85-86)

This bottle sat in front of me the whole time, so it was inevitably going to make its way into my glass. I've found Port Askaig 19 year old to be a real pleasure, so I was interested to see how this (SPOILER ALERT) Caol Ila spirit works within a sherry cask. (UPDATE: Or maybe not Caol Ila. See the comment section for more info.) Here's my final drink of the night:

Port Askaig 15 year old Sherry Cask - 45.8%abv

Color - Gold
Nose - The sherry is very mild here. Instead CI's beach, salty ocean and seaweed notes lead the way.
Palate - Caol Ila + melon + chocolate. Then mint and a subtle note of vanilla bean. Then a mild bitterness keeps things honest.
Finish - Mint, chocolate and a slight white fruit note, but mostly Caol Ila 12yo with more stamina.

Commentary - Another success from Port Askaig, mostly because the sherry steps out of the way to let the good stuff through. Though I prefer the 19yo, that one's price has gone up nearly 50% in the 3 years since I bought it. This 15yo's price hasn't changed much since its debut 2 years ago and retails about $30 cheaper than the 19.
Rating: B/B+ (86-88)

If you're looking for the sort of place that won't make you feel disrespectful for wearing short sleeves, if you're looking for a spot to listen to some Scottish music (and no I don't mean Frightened Rabbit, who aren't half bad though) while sipping on beer and whisky, if you're looking for a cozy place to explore some single casks, then I recommend spending a couple hours at Highlander Inn Tokyo. It's one small block north of the Nakanosakaue station, about 5 minute metro ride from Shinjuku. Toshiyuki Suzuki will likely be the man slinging the drinks, and he's very honest and knowledgable about the bottles on the shelf. Kei Kimura also provided great service to everyone at the bar, and he's the more internet savvy of the two, so hopefully he's reading this. Thank you, gentlemen.

No, this was neither the first nor last of my bar visits in Japan, but I knew it would be a joy to recall. Many more bar posts will follow in the coming weeks...