SF’s first annual WhiskyFest was a few weeks ago (you can read all about it in Jordan’s recap, WhiskyFest Report), and while I missed the event, I made up for it on Halloween. I had two stops that night—the latter one involving a costume—so I donned my magenta wig, painted on some makeup and ran to event number one—a whisky-pairing dinner at Absinthe for Suntory Yamazaki.
Being a quarter Scotch-Irish, I feel as if I should have some innate knowledge of whisky, and maybe I do, but I was out of my league that night. Local spirits writer Camper English, David Wondrich (spirits writer from Esquire) and Executive General Manager Mike Miyamoto of the Suntory Distillery near Kyoto were among the esteemed attendees. Oh, and I should mention that Jeff Hollinger, author of The Art of the Bar, was our bartender.
Upon arrival, everyone was hanging out by the bar sipping specialty cocktails created by Jeff for the occasion. (I was late because of MUNI, and would’ve been even tardier had I stopped Gavin in front of Citizen Cake to share my latest opinion on MUNI’s failures.) My drink was a zesty one with lemon and ginger. When we sat down for our three-course dinner, we were also served wine—red or white (my poor liver). With our first course (mine was a Jerusalem artichoke soup with kaffir lime, a drizzle of walnut oil and garnish of micro cilantro), we had the 12-year Yamazaki. It was totally agreeable and left that signature nice warmth in my mouth and down my throat. Mike shared a story of his post-work ritual involving an “award” of a glass of Suntory Yamazaki-12 and a splash of Suntory soda water at home.
The main course—I ordered the grilled blue nose bass over a butternut squash puree—was paired with the 18-year Yamazaki. But my favorite—and probably the obvious favorite, as it might’ve been one of the last bottles available—was the 25-year, which was served with dessert (me: apple tart). Smooth, caramelly and the perfect meal ender.
So there I was with six guys talking about everything from Paris (Hilton) and Britney to the nuances of Japanese oak and the splendor of Hibiki (Suntory’s blended whisky) over a whisky dinner as a world of pirates, cowboys and trick-or-treaters passed by on the sidewalk.
Watch out world, Japanese whisky is good and only getting better. Stop over at Absinthe or Nihon (and a bunch of other places) to sample for yourself. Kampai!