Photo courtesy Morimoto Asia
A little semantics lesson first: Why are some whisky/eys spelled whisky
and the others spelled whiskey
? The answer is all geography. Americans have decided to spell it "whiskey." So have the Irish. The Canadians and Scots, however, prefer "whisky." So do the Japanese.
Didn't know the Japanese were in on the whisky game? Oh, yes, friends. Big time.
Morimoto Asia at Disney Springs
has spearheaded the Japanese whisky trend, bringing it from relative East-Coast obscurity (the trend hit U.S. shores in Los Angeles and Seattle first) into the limelight.
Want to try it but don't know where to start? We talked to Eric Bandauski, certified cicerone and purchasing manager at Morimoto Asia, who considers himself a Japanese whisky connoisseur, to walk us through the differences and where to start.
OW: What is the difference between Japanese whisky and others?
Japanese whiskys are more approachable and subtle. It may sound cliché, but they have a silky, smooth finish. Their processes and interpretation of the style is very unique, which why I think one of the reasons they are so sought after. For instance, Hibiki Harmony, from Suntory, is aged in a rare Japanese oak cask, called Mizunara, which is actually extremely hard and prone to leaks. It's a small thing, but important. It makes them as unique. Japanese whiskys embody the taste, delicacy and harmony of Japanese food and beverage. They really do need to be experienced by the glass, neat. The progression of flavors is remarkable.
OW: What flavors or aromas make Japanese whisky unique?
They are much more subtle in the nose and the palate. It’s a delicate nose: aromas of peach, apricot, floral, and little, tiny hints of vanilla, are some of the signature perfumes that escape from the whisky. The flavors can run the gamut. You may start with a slight burn, a little oak, a little tree fruit in some of the Suntorys, and as the end nears you finish with this amazing flavor of vanilla, dried plum and fig. Then as you progress further north and south in the Japanese distilleries, the flavors evolve, some become a little more, what I like to call “northwestern” in flavor: pine, mint, green apple, and then you progress to a southern Japanese distillery and you get a little more salt, a little more body, almost a seaside flavor like some of the best scotches from Islay. For such a small country, the environments in which the whiskys are shaped are so diverse. It's like traveling to a different world, and yet you only went a couple hundred miles.
OW: What's the best way to be introduced to Japanese whisky? Where should one start?
Go slowly, and at your own pace. Try them in your favorite cocktail and with the addition of Mars Iwai whiskey. It retains that core Old Fashioned flavor you know and love. Suntory Toki is another great stepping stone. There are hints of the American style blended with Japanese, so it is literally a bridge between the two worlds. Try one on the rocks, and ask for an small piece of orange peel. The citrus will just slide right into the flavor of Toki and bring to the forefront some delicate citrus hiding in the background of it. Or you can just jump in without looking and go with one of our three different whisky flights. That's when you can really see how they progress and change.
OW: Why is Japanese whisky a focus at Morimoto Asia?
Japanese Whisky is a prominent feature here as it is a prominent feature in the beverage culture from Japan. We want to bring that unique Asian experience like no one else can, whether through food, décor, beer, sake or whisky. We want people to come here, enjoy the vast selection the restaurant offers, and end or start the perfect meal with some of the most acclaimed and beloved and rare whiskys in the world!
1600 E. Buena Vista Dr.