Liberté, Egalité, Crème Brûlée
This month, La Maison du Whisky is marking the one year anniversary of the devasting earthquake and tsunami in Sendai by raising money to support their chosen charity, Japon Aid. 5% of all profits made from the sale of Japanese products in March will be donated to help the survivors.
To entice us customers further and to raise as much money as possible, the Fine Spirits section of LMDW is holding themed tastings every Saturday of the month.
Yesterday afternoon, after an energetic cycle sprint on the Vélib from the 18th (a sedentary cycle around the centre of Paris is nigh on impossible!) dodging the raindrops that were spitting down from the grey sky, I made my way to this cosy corner of the Odéon in the 6th arrondissement for the turn of the Nikka Whisky tasting.
The Maison du Whisky store at Odéon is surprisingly deceptive - at first glance, it seems like a pretty small shop, but it is totally worth venturing in a bit further and discovering the sleek upstairs area. To the dulcet tones of Jamie Cullum's "Frontin", I settled myself on the bar stool and let the very knowledgeable, Didier, guide me through the selection.
My knowledge of Japanese whiskies is not extensive but I have tasted the Barrel Nikka (pictured above) several times before so it was decided that I dive straight into the other blended and pure malts.
One thing I hadn't fully appreciated before about the Japanese whisky-making was, just like in Scotland, how much geography plays a part. Nikka is actually the brand name representing two very distinct distilleries, each making a very different style of tipple.
There were single malts from both distilleries on the bar yesterday. The first I tried was the "Miyagikyo" which despite it coming from Sendai (central-ish-Japan) is actually very Speyside in style. It is light, fruity and a fairly feminine whisky, which would do well put with food I imagine. I preferred the 12 year old to the 10 year old, as it was deeper and more complex, with toasty nuts coming through on the nose.
The second "Yoichi" is from the north, and it shows! To put it into perspective, the Yoichi distillery has the same latitude as Vladivostok and Toronto and the location was apparently chosen because of its similarity to the Scottish highlands. It is bordered on three sides by mountains, and the fourth by the sea. Very, very little on the nose of the 10 year old, but the slightly-stewed apples and apricots with the vanillery-oak on the palette more than makes up for that. That sweetness is nicely off-set by the warm glowing embers of smoky peat on the way down.
From those two single malts are made the blends of "pure malt." The Red Label (on the left in the photo below) is predominantly Miyagikyo with just a little Yoichi, and as you would expect, is very friendly, fruity, expressive and aromatic. In stark contrast is the very smoky, peaty White Label, made of mainly Yoichi, which did somewhat make me wonder what licking salt off a cigar box would be like....
Anyway, to sum up, here are my top picks: the Taketsuru 21 year old, which as I wrote (oh so eloquently) in my tasting note, was "fucking tasty." (Buy online here.)
However, it was trumped by Didier's pièce de la résistance: the Yoichi 1991. Very expressive on the nose and, dangerously, didn't taste one bit of it's 62% alcohol strength....
Next Saturday is the turn of liqueurs like Ume no Yado, Asahara Shuzo and Choya and the following Saturday will feature the Japanese rums, Cor Cor and Ogasawara.