291 rye

The world whiskies award winners are in. Not a huge surprise, gear patrol has a summary. Best single malt is Hakushu 25, best blended malt is Taketsuru 17, best blended is jw gold.


In the bourbon category, best bourbon is 1792 full proof, best rye is from distillery 291 in Colorado. It’s harder to find outside Colorado, so I need to make sure we try to look for it when we drive through the state this summer. The distillery itself is in Colorado Springs, an hour south of Denver, so it means around 2hrs’ detour. May be I’ll just try to find a store. Breckenridge distilley, on the other hand, seems to be along our route.

thai rice whisky

We booked and paid for our running away trip to Bangkok in January so it’s time to start putting together some research. Bangkok is an easy city to visit and we know roughly what we want to do already–markets including weekend markets, floating markets, the train market; poking around up and down the river, Ayatthaya if we have time, massage, street food, rooftop bars.


mm asked me if Thailand has whisky and I said I don’t think so. Someone did a rundown of alcohol found in Thailand and the selection seems dismal. In terms of locally produced alcohols, it’s beer, some sort of rum, and lao khao which is made from rice. A description of the taste:

initial taste is sharp and sweet though soon the punch of alcohol with a hint of diesel kicks in, burning the throat and filling the nostrils…The burn lasted far longer than should be acceptable and I must admit that I didn’t love the bitter aftertaste.

It’s traditionally made in villages and is a working class drink. An excerpt from chef Andy Ricker’s book The Drinking Food of Thailand:

if you’re making three hundred baht (about nine dollars) a day toiling for twelve hours in the rice fields, you come home not only eager for a drink but also eager for that drink to be strong and cheap. Two bottles of lao khao cost about 130 baht and will get two guys drunk. Two similar-size bottles of beer cost about the same and will get no guys drunk.

Basically, it’s Thailand’s version of moonshine. I can imagine how it tastes–bold, strong and you can feel it going all the way down your throat. It’s made from a starter yeast cake, containing aromatics such as chillis, lemongrass, galangal as well as remnants from previous batches of yeast cakes. Not unlike sourdough starters where each batch contains parents, grandparents, great-grandparents of an aged original product. The cakes are dried then mixed with steamed sticky rice and water to make the beer. Fermentation takes 5-8 days then distilled. In the distillery in Baan Mai that Ricker visited, the distillate is heated over wood fires which gives a subtle smoky flavour. The short fermentation period and lack of aging means the product doesn’t have time to mellow and its edges smoothed out.

It’s not the most refined liquor and is usually drunk with soda water, coke or juice. It’s 2/3rd of all alcohol consumed in Thailand and is apparently very easy to get drunk with it. Alcohol content around 30-40% so it needs to be treated with respect. We should be able to find this at local shops. Probably will get a small bottle and we’ll make sure to have it after lining our stomachs with food beforehand.

bbmm happy hour at jamie’s


Met mm in the evening. Initially we were meeting at 7pm at the apple store so I can show her the mbp I have my eye on. I was early because I wanted to get some errands done first, but I was done by 6.30pm. Walked past Jamie’s and saw they had a tiered happy hour, between 6-7pm selected drinks only local$10, or around £1. Double the price between 7-8pm and triple between 8-9pm. Even then, $30 is good value. Only a slight catch, must only order from hh menu (ie house wines only) and standing room at the bar, not even high stools. The house red is malbec, and the house white veneto. There was also prosecco, beers, 3 cocktails and 3 mocktails. Decent selection.

Good thing I stopped there instead of heading to the apple store because mm was, what a surprise, late. She didn’t get there till 7.30pm. We ordered some bar snacks and I had another glass of wine.

By the time we were ready to leave it was 8.30pm. We thought of going to a AYCE hotpot place, but I had my reservations because it’d be late when we finish. We ended up having sashimi rice at a place a couple of doors down from Jamie’s. It was better than hotpot, the fish was fresh and the rice was well cooked.

the story of how baileys was invented


TIL Baileys was invented in 1973 by David Gluckman and Hugh Reade Seymour-Davies. Mr Gluckman told the story in the Irish Times recently.

They’d just gotten their business started in London and were asked by the Irish company of their client International Distillers & Vintners (now Diageo) to create a new drinks brand for export.

Hugh: “What would happen if we mixed Irish whiskey and cream?”
David: “Let’s try it.”

We bought a small bottle of Jamesons Irish Whiskey and a tub of single cream and hurried back. It was a lovely May morning. 1973. Underdogs Sunderland had just won the FA Cup. We mixed the two ingredients in our kitchen, tasted the result and it was certainly intriguing, but in reality bloody awful. Undaunted, we threw in some sugar and it got better, but it still missed something.

We went back to the store, searching the shelves for something else, found our salvation in Cadbury’s Powdered Drinking Chocolate and added it to our formula. Hugh and I were taken by surprise. It tasted really good. Not only this, but the cream seemed to have the effect of making the drink taste stronger, like full-strength spirit. It was extraordinary.

The name Baileys, in totally British fashion, was named after a bistro next to a pub near their office. Those days, Soho Square was where the ad agencies were. The husband of their secretary designed a label that included grazing cows and lush green pastures. They had a couple of focus groups taste the product and one thought it tasted like a medicine for diarrhea. They placed two bottles at a pub at Marylebone Road and there it sat for days until a couple of policemen came and drank the whole bottle.

They went to Dublin to pitch their product and were told by the sales director of the company: “It’s not for the Irish market. It’ll never sell here.” Despite this negativity, the product was launched in the UK and Ireland in 1975. But it took a while before it started gaining popularity.

And the rest is history. David Gluckman went on to write a book about his 40-year career creating brands for the drinks industry. Baileys is now the worlds best selling liqueur brand with 82 million bottles sold every year.



Sis gave me a pack of small bottles of aquavit from the Swedish shop a while ago. Since I’m trying to reduce my total amount of stuff, I opened it to give it a try. The labels are all in Swedish and I’m too lazy to google translate them. I can figure out some info from the pictures, there are bottles flavoured with rosemary, orange and some classic-looking labels. Aquavit is a spirit distilled from grain or potato and flavoured with caraway, dill, anise, fennel–caraway being the primary spice used. In Sweden, it’s a holiday or celebration drink drunk as a shot and accompanied with singing, before, during and after each round of shots with increasing enthusiasm. I can definitely taste the caraway and there’s a strong aftertaste of anise too. My first few sips had too much anise, but after a few more, it became sweeter and I was able to tolerate it better. I did not burst into song.

Tried with orange and passionfruit juice (which was what we had in the fridge) and it was quite nice.

Another spirit I’m trying to finish is a small bottle of ouzo I got in Greece. It’s been said that if:

you’re a fan of absinthe, aquavit, or liquorice in general, you’ll dig ouzo

because they all have the base note of anise together with fennel, coriander and cloves. Again, I had it with juice and it was pretty good.

This is very, very odd. I absolutely do not like anise-flavours and I will spit out liquorice. I can’t stand coriander either, it smells like detergent and I can’t stand to have even a small morsel in my food. But I love, love, love fennel and I was fine with both aquavit and ouzo. Okay, I wasn’t very keen on tasting them neat, and perhaps the sweetness of the juice masked the anise notes. I’ve also had absinthe before, once in France and once in the Czech Republic (oh, sorry Czechia) and I didn’t like it. There’s some whacky flavour palate thing going on.

Liquorice, like durian, is a very black-and-white flavour in that people either love it or hate it. There seems to be some scientific theories behind it, that there is a difference between how we handle the aroma vs the taste of flavours. Or precisely, specific chemicals in the food. Anise type food contains glycyrrhiza glabra, and aversion to its taste seems to determine whether someone likes or hates these foodstuffs. The compound that gives this class of food its distinctive smell is anethole, and reactions to smells can be changed over time. Still doesn’t really explain my experience.

One thing is clear, I’ll finish the aquavit and ouzo (with lots of juice), continue to cook fennel, and stay far away from liquorice.

english whisky


I saw this English Whisky at M&S and thought I’d give it a try for the novelty factor. I’ve tried small drams by the St George’s distillery before, and the label says distilled in Norfolk, where the company is. I guessed (and confirmed) it’s a Marks and Spark’s exclusive distilled by St George’s.

First clue, NAS. Plus the distillery has only been in operation for about 10 years, so not likely to be more than 7 years old. My first impression, on taking the bottle out of the box, was how pale it is. It seems that it’s barely been aged in barrels at all, or that the barrels used are different from the typical sherry or bourbon barrels for scottish whisky.

Not much of a taste too, not fiery on the palate. My initial reaction was cake, but not as rich as cake. Somewhat sweet but not fruity. It was better when a drop of water was added, more fragrant, sweeter, and a longer finish.

In the UK it’s on sale for £35. I got it for equivalent of £50. For this price, there are plenty of other options. I’m glad I tried it, but I won’t go back to it once this bottle is finished.


via Outside magazine, Solskinsoen is a film about running a brewery on an island in Denmark.

Penyllan brewery is located on Bornholm, which is mainly a holiday destination that fills up with holiday crowds in the summer and is very quiet in winter.


What a beautiful place and committed brewers. They’ve only just started, their website is a landing page only. Their fb page says they will launch their first beers on 4 October.

pub party


Sis, Rob and I went to the first anniversary party of one of R’s friend Andy’s pub. R is an investor there also, like a few others that Andy has opened. It’s a nice little pub in a central area but on a street that is less crowded. I’m glad to have found it, sometimes I have a little time to spare and nowhere to go to, like a pub. Of course I can find a fast food place and sit for a bit, but honestly who wants to sit at Mcdonalds, having to share a filthy plastic table with others.


The party was between 4-9pm, so they could still take in customers. They had beer, rosé and red wine, all served in a plastic beer cup. Snacks too like chicken wings, salad, pasta. R’s friend Patrick showed up and he somehow snagged a bottle of prosecco for our table. Yay for young Patrick. We left at around 8pm, I got home with enough time to shower and watch MKR.

pillastro wine


Normally when I drink wine at home I use a mug. Yes, it’s terrible.

So I opened a bottle of Pillastro Primivito 2014 that sis gave me. I thought I should do it better justice and use a proper wine glass. Okay, it’s still a stemless, not a fancy one but it’s an improvement.

Nice wine. Primivito is the same grape as zinfandel apparently. No wonder it was fruity and fragrant. Easy to drink too.

soju and beer

I was watching this video about why korean bbq is better in the US than in korea. I disagree, korean bbq in korea certainly has fewer choices–i’ve been to small restaurants where there is literally one thing on the menu, but it was one thing done well–it’s a matter of taste. Americans like lots of choice and lots of everything. That’s not necessarily the way it’s done traditionally.

Anyway, the host was drinking a mixture of soju and beer. I slapped my head, duh!!! Why hadn’t I thought of it before? I’ve drunk soju on its own and obviously beer on its own.

It’s apparently a big thing. They even have specially marked glasses to get the ratio just right. 30:70 soju:beer is popular. There are also other methods to fix the drink, including swirling or mixing with a chopstick to create a foam on top.

And there’s the famous soju bomb, which involves dropping a bunch of shotglasses of soju in glasses of beer, like a domino effect. Very cool.


All I did was mix a splash of soju with beer; I got cass so it’s all korean. The ratio was around 1:4 soju:beer. I can taste the sweet soju in with the mild beer. The alcohol % of the drink is more than beer; soju is 17%. It’s probably something I’ll try in a korean restaurant if there are enough people to finish one soju, otherwise it’s more of a novelty drink for me.

tokyo all you can drink sake


Met mm yesterday for tea and walking around the last day of the brands expo. We also had decisions we needed to make prior to our tokyo trip. Hotel, train, pocket wifi. She brought her mb so i showed her kurand sake market which offers unlimited sake tastings for ¥3240 per session. Considering the evening session is from 5-11pm that’s pretty much unlimited time.

They have several branches and operate on a standing bar basis. Looking at the pictures, they have bottle upon bottle of different sakes in a wall of fridges and the idea is to drink all we like. Food not included, we’re encouraged to bring our own.

She was scrolling around and saw that they also offer tasting lessons. Two hours during the unlimited session. The lesson is conducted by a British sake expert and looks very comprehensive. There is a guided tasted of 10-12 sakes afterwards. Cost ¥5950.

I filled in the booking form and we’re in. Our first day is sorted; we get off the plane, hop on the airport limousine, check-in to our hotel, grab something quick to eat and head over to the sake market. Hopefully it will be a perfect start to the trip.

pokehunting, happy hour, steak dinner


Met up with mm to go pokéhunting. The shopping centre we went to didn’t have many good pokémons but it was nice to just sit and relax. Our friend D whatsapped us that he’s ready to hunt. We met up first at Hullet House, which used to be the marine police headquarters and now converted to a hotel. The colonial building has been restored and it looks very pretty, both during the day and at nightfall.


The bar had happy hour which included local craft beers. Definitely a colonial atmosphere and a nice place to meet and chat.


D took us to some hotspots: the back of ToysRUs, the far corner of a rooftop car park. Got a few draginis and a golduck. We had dinner at a casual Italian place. I had the wagyu beef set: scallop salad, pumpkin soup, A5 wagyu steak, petit fours. The steak was…okay. Very thin and not rare enough.

After dinner we walked to a place D said he found Pikachus but there weren’t any. It’s next to my bus stop home so it was at least convenient.

office drinks


Went over to the office for office drinks. Brought red bean doughnuts from the nearby bakery.

Strange office drinks. Everybody took their glass back to their desk and continued working. I was left sitting there waiting for pokemons to appear. Afterwards mm and I took a bus back and forth to visit more pokestops.

I thought we might have dinner together but I ended up sadly having noodles at place near the bus stop home. Seems like my company is not wanted.

bbmm happy hour

Went for happy hour with mm at a hotel bar. Buy one get one free between 3-9pm, nice. I had two glasses of rioja and she had an abruzzo followed by a sauvignon blanc. Only 150ml servings which suited us.

Dinner at a new, authentic Korean bbq place. So authentic the meal came with soju and one of the wait staff was Korean. The bbq was great, the beef ribs super flavourful. The belly pork was good too. Came with a tofu seafood soup and bibimbap. Way too much for 2 people although we did our best.

Good to catch up with mm. I asked her where we should go for holiday this year and she was non-commital. May be we won’t get to go this year, sigh.

bbmm new watering hole


Went to the japanese brewery for happy hour with mm. I hadn’t noticed before, their own beers are a free upgrade at happy hour whereas guest brews are discounted around 20%.

I knew what I wanted because I had their flight last time I visited. Usually when there’s an amber ale, that ends up being my favourite so my choice was beniaka. The staff were also nice enough to let us have a taste, mm described what she liked and the staff recommended an amber lager from Taiwan. It was very crisp, yet with a depth of flavour. I asked to try a sour beer from Denmark, it was more like a sparkling wine than beer.

Nice place, mm took a pic of their storage fridge and called the place our new watering hole.

After happy hour we went to a korean ayce bbq place. Relatively quiet, it’s a weekday. Didn’t eat as much as we used to but still quite a lot of beef, lamb, chicken, tongue which we wrapped in lettuce. We were there quite a while, it was 9pm when we left and it felt like 8pm.

tomato shochu


I have this bottle of tomato wine we bought in Japan many, many years ago. Time to try it. Not a lot of information available, a reverse google image search gave me a bar located in Saitama that served this tomato shōchū 焼酎 at ¥380.

It’s a clear liquid that smells strong and reminiscent of sake. 25% alcohol doesn’t sound strong, but it certainly tastes strong and left a burning sensation as it travels down my throat. Small sips, especially drinking neat. Not a great deal of tomato flavour.

Distilled spirits, like grain alcohol, are not that memorable neat. I’ll try adding it to soda water and/or juice. In Japanese supermarkets and convenience stores there are lots of mixed shōchū drinks made with soda water and flavouring such as lemon, lime, apple.

Another method is to drink shōchū with warm water, a bit like hot sake.

beer flight, hot pot


Meeting mm for dinner, decided to go out early: a) to take old clothes for recycling and b) to explore one of the happy hour places near where we are meeting.

One of my newest go-to places is food street, which is going through a revival. We normally go to Simplylife for tea, sis and I went to Minh&Kok for Asian, mm and I went to Coast once for an attempted happy hour (she was so late the place had turned to a restaurant). There are new places serving burgers, steaks, mediterranean food, tapas, coffee, gelato. I ended up at Coedo taproom, which serves craft beer from its namesake brewery located in Saitama Japan. They have 12 beers on tap (5 of their own plus 7 guest beers) and a page of kushiyaki. Everything is quite expensive, I guess it’s the location.

I had their beer flight, 150ml servings of their 5 beers. I had about an hour to kill, so I was able to slowly sip each one. Each had a colour assigned to it:

  • ruri: blue pilsner — light and crisp, easy on the palate
  • shiro: white hefeweizen — nice wheat beer smell but a bit bland
  • kyara: brown IPA — one of the better tasting IPAs I’ve tasted, hoppy but not killed by the hops
  • beniaka: red amber ale — expected to be my favourite and it was, rich and smooth
  • shikkoku: black lager — smell and look of very dark beer but not heavy

The beers are about double the price of beers at neighbouring places, especially at happy hour prices. It’s marketing at work: “hand”-crafted beer vs standard tap stuff although the beers at the burger joint looks already quite good: 1664, Asahi, Guinness.

HMV opened up nearby, with almost a whole floor dedicated to a bar-restaurant. Wasn’t very busy when I went up, another possibility for happy hour and to meet up. We normally meet at the sofa section at Ikea, so having someplace else to sit down with a drink is great. They have Estrella on tap. Beer selection will never be as good as a British pub, but is miles ahead of American bars with their beer-flavoured water. I think that’s why craft beers are getting so much attention in the US: people are used to bland stuff (Bud, Coors) and when they are offered a bit of flavour of course they will be wowed. Compared with UK, Belgium, Germany where the beer already taste good and varied, the newer craft beers are merely one more choice.

Dinner plans was originally karaoke, which would have ended up mostly mm singing and me forced to participate in a few songs. We decided it was for another time so searched online and found an AYCE hotpot restaurant. The food wasn’t that good, it’s hard to screw up hotpot but they did it: meat was too fat or looked brown & watery, veg wasn’t washed properly. Definitely not going back there again.

blue tea

Sis and gis and I were at a coffee shop the other day and gis ordered a herbal tea that was blue. We examined the tea bag, it was filled with all sorts of different flower petals, the blue colour was quite overwhelming.


Turns out, it’s a herbal tea made from butterfly pea flower from Thailand. It tasted like mild flower herbal tea, very pleasant and soothing. It’s also available at amazon.

Sis’ reaction when the tea was served was alarm and skeptism. There are so few naturally blue foods around that many of us associate blue with food that’s gone bad. Odd. I can think of blueberries, blue corn, blue cheese. True, there are fewer blue flower and plants too. Doesn’t mean blue food is bad.

bbmm happy hour


Met mm at a French bar bistro halfway between my flat and her uni for happy hour. Even sat French style, outside the bar, albeit they had heaters a-plenty on the patio.

The wine was okay, nothing to write home about. We had a good chat and catch up though. She went to a car race over the weekend and as a guest of one of the racers, got a tour inside the…what’s the car equivalent of an aircraft hangar? Anyway, she had some great pics that she wanted to show me.

The snacks that came with our wine was the usual toast crackers and butter, and it was accompanied by some radishes. I’ve never had radishes with wine before, it was interesting. What snacks go well with wine? If Vinepair can be believed, junk food: cheetos with napa cab; glazed doughnuts with champagne and twinkies with gewürztraminer. Hmm.

Here are some normal-sounding examples. I particularly like the pâté and the dates stuffed with goat’s cheese and pecans. In fact, nice though they are, skip the dates and pecans and give me cheese. Just cheese. Now that’s a whole ‘nother discussion.

let’s start a whisky club


May be fun to have a whisky club. Since most of the people I know who like whisky lives in different countries, it’ll be a virtual club. Some tips on how to host a whisky tasting and advice from reddit:

keep it small, keep it simple, keep it not for profit

Just brainstorming here:

  • once a quarter
  • format like author chats/book clubs using twitter, fb group or google hangout as possible communication tool
  • pick a general theme, like Islay whisky or bourbon trail distilleries or 15 year olds so people don’t always have to buy a new bottle every time
  • pick a timeslot or a certain day, participants taste on their own or if they can get together with others, make it a gathering
  • fill in tasting notes for fun and for record


christmas eve at the yacht club


The yacht club does this every year. Early evening on Christmas Eve means mulled wine, mince pies, hot chestnuts and carol singing.

yclub201518wine yclub201510mincepies

Didn’t feel like it’s Christmas Eve because it was 27ºC. Argh, I was sweating buckets. The mulled wine was of course hot, so made me even hotter. It was nice though, could do with more spices and fruit. The mince pies were great–not too sweet, flaky pastry, small enough to handle. The queue at the candyfloss station was too long and too many kids so we didn’t even try.

Sis got other snacks too–satay, sausage rolls, chicken nuggets and chips. The satay was their usual high standard.

Carol singing started at 6pm. The enthusiastic choir was mostly kids of all ages with a few adults. Started with Away in a Manger, went through the classics like Deck the Hall, Jingle Bells, The Holly and the Ivy and one of my favourites, Once in Royal David’s City. If only the crowd would have quietened down so there was less background noise.

drinks and dinner with sis

My niece flew to the UK to spend christmas with robert and his parents. Sis isn’t going, so she asked me to go with her to drinks and dinner tonight, otherwise she will be too worried about my niece on the plane.

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We started off with prosecco and I also ordered a baked camembert to nibble on. Quite nice, but the bar didn’t have happy hour. We moved to another bar that had happy hour at the hotel next door. Sat outside, it was just about warm enough not to need a coat.

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Dinner was at a german restaurant called Berliner. Sis had two vouchers, one for a free cocktail and the other gave a discount, both had to be used by 31-dec. The free cocktail was a sweet gin and juice concoction. For mains we had sausages and more sausages. I ordered the huge sausage platter, ate around 1/3 and took the rest home.

bbmm (sort of) happy hour

whiskyflightboard earlgreybourbon

Met mm for happy hour. She had classes till 5.30pm, then needed to meet with her group. So I estimated they’d be done by 6.30 so I said let’s meet around 7-7.30. I went for a haircut and had plenty of time so I scouted around for a venue.

I should know this by now. After so many hours wasted, I should know this. We have different time concepts. If I’m meeting someone between 7-7.30, I get there at 6.45; mm starts leaving at 7.30. She’s improved over the years so nowadays she’ll try to leave at 7. So when I texted her at 7 and she said she’s leaving, I presume she’s getting ready to leave.

Which is a long way of saying I got there really early and sat around for over 1hr nursing one drink. A nice cocktail too: earl grey vodka, bourbon, lime and honey. I thought we’d go to this bar because they have a whisky flight of 6 drams: taketsuru 12, kavalan, monkey shoulder, linkwood 15, longrow peated, laphroaig 10. I was especially keen to try the longrow. But since mm was late, by the time she got there I was irritated and the bar had turned into a very busy and noisy restaurant.

We had a fried calamari, and decided against dinner there. The food looked good, if expensive. We went to a beef shabu shabu place instead. I’m sill annoyed but didn’t want to spoil the evening. It ended pretty okay.


bourbon heritage month


September is bourbon heritage month so I thought I’d bring out my collection of bourbon and other American whiskeys and have a toast.

From back: Jim Beam Black, Woodford Reserve, Makers Mark 46, Breckenridge, Blanton’s, Knob Creek single barrel, Bulleit, small Jack Daniels. The tasting glass is from 1792 distillery.

I really like bourbon. The good ones are smooth and sweet with a nice finish. (Although, some are rubbish.) One of my favourite meals is Hawksmoor steak with Blanton’s. It’s also at Hawksmoor that I learned to appreciate rye whiskey.

bbmm beach drinks korean bbq


It’s a special-for-this-year-only public holiday today, which has zero significance for me except mm has free time. We drove out to one of the beaches, sigh, it’s terrible with the public holiday crowd. No street parking so we headed straight to the paid car park.

My original intention was to walk around the beach then explore the shops around the town. I remember there is a cheese and wine shop that is interesting. Instead, we plonked ourselves at the outdoor bar at the beach and ordered a couple of glasses of wine. A cab for mm and a german pinot for me, both were good. Chilled, in chilled glasses, which was strange, but in the heat everything got to room temperature quickly.

Mostly mm did the talking, telling me about her new classmates in her new course. My job is to be supportive and to tell her to chill out a bit, it’s only been a couple of days, no need to get frustrated at people who aren’t perfectionists.

Didn’t go anywhere else after the bar, we were both hungry so we took ryan back to mm’s car park and took public transportation to a korean bbq. We noticed that no koreans ever tend to go to these buffet places. We had beef, lamb, pork, chicken, sausages, mushroom as well as lots of lettuce and chili sauce. The banchan wasn’t impressive, only the pickled cucumbers passed muster. Nice to have a day out to chat and catch up anyway.

bbmm pub and bar day out


We met up for lunch at the scottish pub. They have a nice 3-course set lunch: salad, roast pork with trimmings and ice cream. Free refills on soft drinks and iced tea/coffee. I was early so ordered a bottle of porter before I spotted the free refills. Anyway, it was at happy hour prices and it’s so rare to be able to get proper ales.

We chatted for a long time, or rather mm updated me on things she’s been up to recently. We went to the cable company to sort out her renewal and then went to the irish pub for a couple of irish whiskies. She had bushmills and I had kilbeggan, we prefer the bushmills.

wine, bourbon, whisky

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Went to a liquor store to look for wine with Car. I got a california cab and a washington pinot. The store had a great selection and I mainly looked at US wines—when in Rome, do as the Romans do, which means go for the local wines. It’s like drinking chianti in Italy, chateauneuf in France and sauvignon blanc in New Zealand.

There was a tasting of save me san francisco wine which are wines launched by a band called Train. I’ve never heard of Train before, but the wines were very decent and good value. I tried the (very generous portions) cab, pinot and blend. The proceeds go to a non-profit organisation in California. One of the band members, Jimmy Stafford, was there to autograph the bottles so I bought a bottle of their pinot too.

After the wine, I went to look at the whisky shelf and wow, there were 2 shelves full of very tempting whisky. One shelf was bourbon and rye; the other shelf was whisky and Irish whiskey, including Tullamore Dew Phoenix which was only available at the distillery and at the airport in Dublin. Even Yamazaki, Hibiki and NIkka Coffey.


It was very hard not to buy up the entire shelf of whisky and whiskey. I couldn’t not get the Ardbeg Perpetuum, which was released during Feis Ile 2015 to celebrate Ardbeg’s 200th anniversary so is very, very special. I was bummed I wasn’t in London for its launch and had been resigned to never getting a bottle. $90 plus tax, which probably works out cheaper than the £90 at TWE.

It was impossible to limit the bourbon purchases to one. I got another bottle of Blanton’s, after seriously considering Bookers, Redemption, Rittenhouse Rye and Weller. Also got a bottle from ch distillery—they are a vodka distillery and bottled this bourbon— it was on sale and the company is in Chicago, all towards my goal of buying local. All this to add to the Knob Creek single barrel I bought yesterday.

I’ll have to finish drinking the wine and figure out how to bring all these bottles of whisky and bourbon back with me. Ah well, I have a few weeks to think of that.

more whisky

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Recent whisky purchases include 3 bottles of Nikka from the Barrel, a Mars Iwai, Amrut fusion and a umeshu-whisky liqueur. I went to get the Nikka from the Barrels, which were on special and the saleslady there suggested I get the Iwai too. Not very expensive, so I did. Wonder how it tastes like, it’s a blend from the little known Mars distillery.

I did get to try the umeshu-whisky liqueur, which tasted mostly of umeshu with a hint of whisky. At the tasting they had a umeshu-brandy liqueur which was very sweet, but none for sale.

Rounding off the selection is an unknown 45% chinese liqueur bought at a supermarket in Shunde. Chinese liqueurs tend to be very strong and burning, but the bottle of opera masks was cute and it was cheap so I got it, for decoration if not for drinking.

new world whiskies: amrut, kavalan

amrutwhiskies kavalan

I saw a whisky promotion at a small shop mm and I once stumbled upon. They had bunnahabhain and the dalmore on specials, and on their shelf they also had highland park, talisker, the balvenie and the usual macallan and glenmorangie. The more unusual selection was on another shelf, they had a few amruts and kavalans, from india and taiwan respectively. I have an amrut fusion already, so I bought a second bottle to open. The kavalans were miniatures, and kavalan is hot right now, since their solist expression won 2015 world whisky awards best single malt. It’s a bit like new world vs old world wines, so many new interlopers muscling into the world previously dominated by scotland. So many whiskies, not enough money to buy or time to try them all.

invented cocktail: vodka, grand marnier, raspberry granita


The horrors, sis ran out of wine at home and we didn’t feel like whisky so we were playing around with the supplies she had to make cocktails. Vodka martini didn’t taste quite right, even with lemon juice and an olive. Couldn’t find olive brine for dirty martini. Still didn’t taste right, a bit one dimensional.

Sis suggested to try adding some of the raspberry granita she had in the freezer. Great granita, from fresh raspberries and sugar syrup. I mixed vodka and grand marnier in a 2:1 ratio, with a few drops of vermouth and a tablespoon of the granita. It quite nice, like a cosmopolitan but with raspberry instead of cranberry juice. Not usually a cocktail person, it was quite good for something I invented from available ingredients.

mackmyra single malt from sweden


How often does someone give you something you’ve always wanted but thought you’d never get a chance to have? Hardly ever. And when it happens, it is a very special moment indeed.

Sis went to a small Swedish shop with her friend, a Swedish mom whose daughter is my niece’s best friend. They were there to look for chocolate and biscuits. She spotted an unusual bottle of whisky that she hadn’t seen before, and because it’s my birthday coming up, bought it for me.

She didn’t know Sweden had whisky and hadn’t heard of Mackmyra before. Little did she know it’s one of the whiskies on my list that I’ve wanted to try. I first came across it in 101 whiskies to try before you die, and saw a bottle at Stockholm airport—I couldn’t buy it because it was only available for purchase for travellers going to non-EU destinations. The best chance of trying would have been at a whisky bar or tasting.

Mackmyra is Sweden’s first single malt whisky, and the comments are positive. This bottle is a first edition, ie the distillery’s first product. NAS, and from what I can gather, is light and smooth. Now that I know where I can get it, I’m tempted to get another bottle to open and drink.

I’m so so so grateful that Sis saw this whisky, and thought of getting it for me.

world whisky awards 2015 japan leg winners

yama060taste nikka106tastebar

The results of the Japan leg of the World Whiskies Awards 2015 are out, these are the contenders that will be brought to the WWA final in London:

  • best single malt: yamazaki 18 (other finalists miyagikyo NAS & 12, yamazaki 25)
  • best blended malt: taketsuru 17 (other finalists taketsuru NAS, 21)
  • best blended: hibiki 21 (other finalists super nikka, tsuru 17)
  • best grain: fuji-gotemba blender’s choice


Yamazaki gets the nod for best single malt again, although it’s interesting that the 18 beat the 25. I’m happy about since it keeps our beloved Nikka whiskies a little bit under the radar.

Interesting remark #3, that from Nikka the preferred whisky is Miyagikyo, when it’s been Yoichi the past few years. When we tasted the flights at the Nikka bar at Sapporo last year, I told mm that I preferred Miyagikyo—Yoichi is slightly smoky and Miyagikyo is smoother. We visited the Yoichi distillery in Hokkaido but it’s unlikely we’ll visit Miyagikyo in our lifetime. The distillery is located in Sendai, site of the devastating 2011 tsunami; and only 50 miles from the Fukushima nuclear plant. There’s been speculation about how “safe” the post-2011 batches of Miyagikyo will be—now is the time to stock up.

And I didn’t know Hibiki is blended as opposed to blended malt. No wonder a) it keeps winning all these awards; b) I keep trying and trying and trying and I never ever like it. It’s not snobbery, I have yet to find a blended whisky I like. The only ones that came close are Naked Grouse and some of the Compass Boxes, but I’ll never buy them. At the £30-ish price range, I’d rather spend my money on Highland Park 12.

oneglass single serve wine pouches


Saw these 100ml single serve wine pouches from oneglass the other day, apparently a new product. They claim the paper, plastic and aluminium packaging is eco-friendly, easy to use and easy to carry.

I can see the advantages of taking one, or several, pouches when taking part in outdoor activities. I read a couple of books where our protagonists brought a whole bottle of wine on hiking or sledding trips and got gently told off by their friends. The problem is the heavy glass bottle that they also have to carry home empty. No such problems with these pouches. That they were on sale at the yacht club adds sailing/boating/kayaking as another activity that can benefit from these pouches.

Will I buy them? I might get one, for the fun factor. They are expensive. Haven’t tried the wine inside, but multiplying the cost of one pouch by 7.5 gives me almost double the price I’d normally pay for a bottle of cab or sangiovese. I guess they’re charging extra for design and gimmickiness. To be honest, if I were going hiking or sledding or kayaking and want to bring wine (or any drink), I’d use one of those to go bags popular in Singapore and other SE Asian countries. Or those flexible, collapsable water bottles. Or use a couple of ziploc bags.

drink beer, write a novel


According to a Copenhagen-based brewery, drinking their problem solver beer will help, well, solve creative problems. Apparently an alcohol level of 0.075% is just the right amount to get the creative juices flowing. As the independent helpfully explained,

it is thought to come with a feeling of relaxation that stops you from being ‘too-focused’, but is not drunk enough that your verbal and cerebral ability will be impaired

The 7.5% IPA comes in a 750ml bottle that has a printed scale to indicate exactly how much to drink to get to that sweet spot, depending on gender and weight.

Of course it’s clever marketing, it’s a campaign from agency CP+B Copenhagen.

Now forgive me while I go drink some beer and churn out the Next Great Novel. 

more cocktails, chicken & beer

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It was raining so I went to sis’ to use the threadmill there. Natually we ended up going out to eat. First stop was Stone Nullah Tavern for a quick cocktail. I had something called Hillsboro Mile which had bourbon, pimms, mint—I can’t find it on google. Sis had an earl grey martini that did have a nice tea flavour. We munched on fried artichokes and kale. Both were nice but portions were small and not value for money.

Dinner was at a Korean fried chicken place. Korean-styled fried chicken is superior to almost all fried chicken in that the batter is thin, super crunchy and the whole dish very addictive. This place we went to had yummy fried chicken. I think the plate was the whole chicken. Quite heavily seasoned and peppery-spicy with juicy meat. I’d go again. 

cocktails, wine, pizza, nutella calzone


It’s the start of overeating and drinking season. Met mm for lunch at a korean place, we had miso tofu soup and mixed offal soup. Warming and filling for the chills. We split up for about an hour to run separate errands then met with her mum and family friends for happy hour at the german bierhalle place. The others had cocktail but I stuck with a weissbier.


The rest of the group went off for dinner without me. I’d promised sis that I’d hang out with her. We went to Motorino for pizza. We shared a mushroom pizza and a salad. They had on their menu a wine they claimed was the perfect pizza wine. I’d never heard of Gragnano before, it was quite drinkable, a little sweet and as the menu said semi-sparkling. Sis says it tastes like fizzy ribena, hahaha. I googled it, and the “perfect pizza wine” came from New York Magazine.


For dessert sis had tiramisu and I tried their special of the day—nutella and marshmallow calzone. It was extremely large, and I think the size put me off so I could only take a few bites. I took the rest of it home. There should be running tomorrow so it can be the after-running snack. 

how bourbon is made

Gear patrol spent 5 days visiting a bunch of bourbon distilleries. Fascinating posts, for all bourbon, whiskey and whisky lovers.

I recognised some of the distilleries that I visited myself when I went on the bourbon trail a few years ago. The bourbon trail passport now requires stamps from 9 distilleries (used to be 6 when I went). This means a longer trip, which I guess is what they want. Ah, commercialism.


One of the people interviewed on the video looks familiar. Yep, it’s our guide at Buffalo Trace. I have a picture of me and him too at the tasting bar, he was super nice and a great guy. No, I don’t post pics of me. 

the human cannonball #wine


Mum and I went to the Japanese snack store, the one that also sells non-snacks and grocery items at almost wholesale prices. Mum got noodles and some snacks. I saw this wine and I had to get it. I mean, it’s the human cannonball wine. Cabernet merlot 2012 to be precise.

I can’t find too much about it, apart from the bottler. I don’t think they are a winery, rather a bottler and producer of wines and spirits. The blurb for the human cannonball wine is pure marketing. I can imagine PT Barnum shouting this out to the crowd:

Step right up! Get your ticket and experience the eighth wonder of the world. Yes, you heard right. The Human Cannonball is here! Your mind will not believe your eyes and you brain will not believe your taste buds. The bravery and courage is the spectacle, this fearless death defier will leave your mouth wide open & chanting for more. Tell your friends and bring your family… The Human Cannonball wine range is the lighter path to drinking serious wines. Instead of being clad in leather and tweed, we encourage our drinkers to wine down (pun intended) and be the spectator of something truly amazing. What colour is your ticket?

It’s not an expensive bottle, in the region of what I’d pay for wines I use for cooking. Since I usually cook with half and drink the other half of the bottle, I’ll see when I use it whether it’ll leave me wanting to wine down (pun intended). 

whisky (cocktail) and (keyboard) waffle

When I was talking to sis’ restauranteur friend about a whisky bar, he mentioned about an idea he had about whisky and waffles. Quite intriguing. The main reason is that using standalone waffle irons or electric griddles falls under a less stringent food licence. And waffle irons can be used to cook all sorts of food other than waffles.

We ended up not going through with the whisky bar idea. And waffle irons do come in other shapes like animals, the state of Texas and of course Hello Kitty.


I was reminded of our idea when I saw this keyboard waffle iron kickstarter project featured all over the place. I can imagine geekily shaped waffles and whisky being an interesting idea for a bar-café. And for an alternate breakfast idea, how about keyboard waffles with this pg tipple cocktail made from pg tips, marmalade and bulleit bourbon.

$60 for a waffle iron is on the expensive side—most kickstarter projects are expensive I find. If I were going for the whisky & waffle bar idea then I’d probably get a couple of these.  

#66 new whisky dalmore 18


Tasks #64-68 of 101 in 1001 is to try 5 whiskies. This is #3 of 5.

Next in the highland/speyside rotation is the bottle of The Dalmore 18 I bought at DXB last year. It was on special offer, and I couldn’t help remembering that Dalmore boasts the most expensive whisky in the world, a very limited (12 bottles total) edition of the 1962 sold at Chiangi airport for US$250,000. My flawed theory was, if they can sell the world’s most expensive whisky, their other offerings must be good, right?

Well, not so much. I found the 18 to be flat and abrupt with barely any finish. It’s smooth enough, I must say. Some notes of bitter chocolate or bitter something. The first few sips were disappointing, then I got used to it and was prepared for the lack of finish. Not quite sure why it gets such good reviews, may be it’s my palette.

It costs around the same as Macallan 18 and even though I’ve pretty much gone off Macallan, I think the Dalmore compares poorly with Macallan and other high street 18s. The problem with Dalmore is that they’re trying too hard to market themselves as a premium brand, with a distinctive bottle, stag logo that screams county squire, and gimmicky £1 million pricetags.

Yes, there are people with more money than taste who will throw money at something very expensive because it is expensive. But to make it as a premium brand, the product itself has to be of sufficiently high quality consistently. In the crowded 18yr category, I’ll take Highland Park 18 any day, or Bunnahabein 18 (£70 at TWE, a bargain) or the stunning Yamazaki 18 (a bit higher in the price bracket, but I can get it when I travel to Japan). I think I should have saved my money or gone for the 12 or 15 if I wanted to try Dalmore. Mr Murray gives the Dalmore 18 a disappointing 76.5 points and I think it’s about right. Nice bottle design though.

fun with wine apps

Downloaded a few wine apps for fun.

First, a couple of wine scanner apps. Both vivino and delectable recognise wines from a picture of the bottle’s label. They then give information about the wine, region, vintage, pairing and ratings from other users.


I grabbed a random bottle, a fuzion tempranillo 2012, and both apps got the brand and country right. Vivino got the vintage exactly right, but it’s pretty subjective. Both offer additional features, users can buy directly through delectable and vivino gives a list of places where the wine can be purchased. That said, when the correspondent at the washington post tried to find stores near to him, vivino told him to go to mcdonald’s.


Both apps encourage users to connect via social media, in fact delectable won’t let me proceed without signing up with facebook or my email address. I can use vivino as a guest, and this is the big reason why I’m keeping this app and I’ll probably delete delectable. I don’t want to be tracked or receive notifications thank you.


From wine scanners to a new app wine4me, yet another wine discovery app. This one creates a wine profile based on my preference of type, region, country. I entered a few like rioja, oregon, alsace and it gave me a profile and a list of wines it thinks I may like. As I add more wines that I have tasted, the app is trained to fine tune more choices. It’s good for casual wine drinkers but I find that it skews towards new world wine and doesn’t have my all-time favourite chateauneuf-du-pape (buried in southern france) or current favourite cabernet franc.


Finally, one that is a bit different and sort of fun. The WSET wine game is offered by the wine & spirit education trust who provides education and qualifications on wine. The aim is to place 10 bottles correctly in their country of origin. Level 1 even gives the region (eg central otago) and the challenge is to click on the map fast enough. It’s pretty much a simple game to market the WSET school and qualifications. Quite fun for a few minutes.



Stopped by the supermarket to get some grapes and beer. I prefer bottled beer so the choices are normally:

  • what I really want: craft beer, ales from the UK — I don’t get these because they are expensive
  • what I never buy: san miguel, skol, budweiser or a brand name I’d never heard of that is incredible cheap
  • what I sometimes buy: tsingtao or yangjing — acceptable taste, usually comes with a buy 3 get one free offer which makes it difficult for me because I can’t carry 3 bottles
  • what I usually get: japanese beer — good middle ground, I like the taste and the price is somewhere between the cheap watery beer and the expensive craft beers

I had pabst blue ribbon in the never buy category, because I’ve never tried it. Today Kirin and Asahi were on bulk buy offers and I really only wanted one bottle, so I thought I’d give PBR a try. It was pretty okay, a bit bland but not as bad as bud or miller. I remember reading that PBR has become the beer of choice for hipsters because of its “coolness” factor. I just have to laugh. I thought card-carrying hipsters won’t be seen dead without an oddly named craft beer.

laphroaig new releases, opinions welcome

I’m a FoL, aka a Friend of Laphroaig. Each bottle of Laphroaig includes a code that entitles the holder to a small 1 square foot plot of land in and around the distillery. I think I have 3 or 4 plots in my account. Anyway, Laphroaig is definitely a unique, acquired taste and I love it especially since I had a great time when I visited the distillery.

I’m still working through my bottle of PX cask, and now they have a few new releases. The Select is a NAS aged in a combination of Oloroso sherry butts, American white oak, hogsheads seasoned with Pedro Ximenez, quarter casks and first fill bourbon casks. Very reasonable at £35. Then there is the 2014 cask strength, batch 006 coming in at 58% and the 2014 Cairdeas currently available exclusively to FoL.

They also embarked on a global marketing campaign, asking the question:

how would you describe Laphroaig to someone who hasn’t tried it before?

They filmed people (actors? real people, I’m skeptical) tasting a brown liquid poured from an unlabelled green bottle. Comments like spicy, fishy, seagull’s armpits and “I think they smoked it too long” actually describe Laphroaig pretty accurately. The fun part is to see people trying to pronounce Laphroaig, snerk.

chinon: a new favourite wine


I discovered chinon at 10cases when I asked for a lighter red wine that wasn’t watery. It was a good price too. Chinon is a red wine from the Loire valley made of around 90% cabernet franc and 10% cabernet sauvignon. I’ve been seeing this chinon 2011 at a couple of supermarkets. It’s more expensive than the usual new world cabs and pinots and old world plonk, but half the price of my favourite chateauneuf. It’s light but has body. Fruity, easy on the palette and very little tannin aftertaste.

In other news, mm and I met for happy hour. Selected cocktails at half price. She had a Pimm’s Royale and I had a Tequila Smash which was tequila, ginger beer and I think the menu said a splash of Laphroaig or Stolichnaya (I was deciding between different cocktails so got the ingredients a bit mixed up).

happy hour laksa


Went to happy hour with mm, the place we wanted to try was crowded (well, friday evening) so we went to another one nearby that actually had free tables and seats. Don’t know why, the drinks and service were both good. We just had a red wine each and shared an order of calamari. Didn’t want to have dinner there, they had mainly snacks only. Went to an authentic Malaysian restaurant only a few minutes’ walk away. It’s one of my dad’s favourite restaurants because of its authencity. We both ordered seafood laksa and I had a whole coconut as well. Very nice laksa, rich sauce, coconut and slightly spicy.

frozen beer


With all the hullabub about cruise planning and mum’s birthday cooking, I need a bit of a breather. There was frozen beer at the yacht club, which just hit the spot. Actually it’s not exactly all frozen, ethanol freezes at -114°C so a 5% beer will freeze at somewhere like -10 to -20&$176;C. The frozen beer, developed and introduced this year by Kirin, is more like a cold beer with a Mr Whippy-style frozen head that melted to regular beer top quite quickly. It’s supposed to keep the drink cooler longer, it’s more like a fun gimmick.

30in30 #19: treat for my birthday


Tast #19 of 30 in 30 is a treat for my birthday, which isn’t till next week. But today a box got delivered that made me happy, and it felt like a birthday treat.

Earlier this year, TWE had a lottery for Karuizawa 1984 sherry cask #3663, bottled in 2013 at 56.8% from a single cask. Karuizawa is a Japanese distillery that is no longer in production, and is quite in demand by collectors and investors. I put my email in the lottery for fun, and got the confirmation after the lottery closed that, as expected, I wasn’t allocated a bottle. I thought, next time we’re in Japan, we’ll continue looking for interesting Japanese whisky.

Then in March, I got another email from TWE that I had been allocated a bottle of the Karuizawa. That was a surprise, because I’d already forgotten about the earlier lottery. I guess people either were disqualified because of too many entries, or people who were allcoated didn’t follow through with the purchase, or some other reason. The fact was, I was being offered an opportunity to purchase one of a limited supply (reputably 240 bottles) of a highly rated whisky.

I didn’t decide straightaway, because of the £325 price tag. That’s a lot, even for a 29 year old single cask rare whisky. I did some research first. nojatta said,

If you manage to get your hands on a bottle of this, you really have won the lottery

whisky investor fb page said,

Strong buy. Any single cask releases from Karuizawa are towards the top of the ‘buy’ list

In the end, I decided that I would probably regret it if I didn’t get it. I saved on VAT, but had to pay shipment and customs, which added to the total cost. I handled the bottle very, very carefully when the delivery person came, and it’s now safely tucked away on my whisky shelf. All the talk about whisky investment is irrelevant, because I’ll have to be destitute before I begin to think about selling my whiskies. Will I ever open the bottle? May be, eventually. Have to be a special occasion, I think.

hokkaido day 6: sapporo

We woke up early to do laundry, which was one of the advantages of staying at an apartment as opposed to a hotel. All told the apartment wasn’t that much cheaper than a hotel, we wanted a different experience for our trip. We had bought brioche from café denmark yesterday so we had breakfast in the apartment while waiting for the laundry to finish.

Destination in the morning was the historical village of hokkaido. I’d read about it on my research and really wanted to go. Luckily we had the car, it would have been a bit of a hassle to go by public transport. We were also lucky to have a coupon from the shiraito onsen hotel.

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sap398temple sap420stationmaster

The village consisted of 50-60 buildings from all over hokkaido, dating from the mid-1800s to mid-1900s. There were all sorts of buildings: inns, shops, post office, distillery, newspaper building, temple, church, farmhouse, residental homes. Some, if not all, the buildings had exhibits inside of furniture or equipment from that time. A guidemap suggested a 1 or 2 hour walk, but to explore the outside and inside took longer. We didn’t mind, we were completely enjoying ourselves. It rained and dropped sleet and was very windy so we were running from building to building. It also felt like we were the only visitors at times. Again, we didn’t mind.


We were quite cold by the time we finished the tour, having covered about 75% of the village. Stopped at the cafeteria for much needed coffee and tea.

Next destination was outlet shopping. We had lunch at the food court, a great value meal of seafood donburi, tempura and soba for only ¥1080. The outlet itself was a bit of a let down and we quickly finished browsing through all the shops including the more interesting farm shop.

nikkabar192barcollection nikkabar206flights

Parked the car back at the overnight car park near the apartment and took the subway to susukino to visit the nikka bar. It was still quite early so we were the first customers. A nikka whisky fan’s dream bar, it had all the nikka whiskies plus a lot of other whiskies and liquors. We sat at the bar and had 2 flights: yoichi 10, 12, 15 and miyagikyo 10, 12, 15. It was the first time we tried miyagikyo and I like it better than yoichi. Guess we’ve decided on the next distillery visit, heehee. To finish, we tried a simple taketsuru NAS.

sap472kushidori sap477beefveg

Took the subway back to JR sapporo and had dinner at kushidori, a chain yakitori restaurant. Even after 9pm we had to wait for a bit, and were lucky to sit at the counter with an unimpeded view of the grilling stations. Had beef, ox tongue, chicken gizzard, chicken gristle, pork with asparagus, okra, mushroom, pepper and I had a half & half beer (half dark, half light).

hokkaido day 5: jozankei, nikka, otaru, sapporo

joz331bfast joz337tofu

Another early wake up day to soak in the spa, we went back to the outdoor one. Breakfast was as delicious and as extensive as dinner. Salmon, rice, tofu, egg and bacon cooked at the table, natto, soup and orange slices. We said goodbye to the proprietors, who were so fantastically hospitable and old fashioned they waited till we were in our car and bowed goodbye to us.

Our last exploration in Jozankei was the small shiraito waterfall the hotel was named after. Very small falls, and the bridge was not accessible because of snow. A very pleasant half an hour walk before we left for our next destination.

nikka008building nikka027distillery

About 1.5-2hrs’ drive brought us to the nikka yoichi distillery where they make, duh, single malt yoichi. What a magnificent distillery. Architecturally looking like a distillery in Scotland, with many of the same features and equipment. We were free to walk around the grounds ourselves to see the mill, mash ton, fermenter, pot stills and warehouses. A series of videos in various languages inside many buildings gave commentary on the whisky making process.

nikka106tastebar nikka116taste

The walk ended in the tasting room where we sampled yoichi 10, tsuru blend and an apple wine. Beautiful view of snowy mountains from the tasting room, it gave the whole tasting an unforgettable atmosphere.

We had lunch at the onsite restaurant. Lamb shabu shabu in two broths — whisky and red wine. After lunch we went to the museum bar for more selection. We picked special ones and were pleased that the bartender was generous with his pours:

  • yoichi single cask 15 — cask strength, quite strong
  • yoichi 20 — slightly peaty, smooth
  • yoichi apple brandy barrel — bit rough, not our favourite
  • taketsuru 21 — no wonder it won all sorts of awards
  • taketsuru 25 — brilliant, brilliant blend, at ¥1600 for a shot pretty expensive but top quality

Spent a lot of time at the shop deciding on what to buy. They had everything and we wanted to buy everything. Had to balance want against space in our luggage. In the end I bought:

  • yoichi 20 — one of the ones on my list
  • single cask 10 — small 180ml bottle
  • single cask 15 — small 180ml bottle
  • single cask 20 — small 180ml bottle
  • yoichi 10 small 180ml bottle — may be for silent auction
  • taketsuru 17 small 180ml bottle — also for silent auction
  • taketsuru 21 4x180ml bottles — worked out to be cheaper than 700ml


On the way back from yoichi to sapporo we passed otaru and we couldn’t resist stopping. It was around 5pm and many shops were closed or were closing so it was just a short visit. Went to the canal to take night time pictures as we had never been to otaru after sunset.

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By the time we got back to sapporo it was dark. Luckily the gps found our apartment easily, we double parked while we unloaded. I found this apartment on airbnb, on the 10/F of an apartment block near hokkaido university. Quite dorm like the building and the apartment, which was very small with a tatami room, a kitchenette and tiny bathroom. We went back downstairs and spent a little time trying to find an overnight car park. The saving grace was the pocket wifi that came with the apartment which meant we could use google maps.

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sap275ikurasoy sap271bluefintuna

After we got sorted and parked it was around 8.30pm already. We headed to 6/F stellar place to see if the famous hanamaru conveyor belt sushi. We only had to wait for about 10mins because it was late. No wonder there is a permanent queue outside. The sushi was fresh and fantastic. We observed other customers who didn’t take their plates from the belt, instead ordered freshly made by writing their order on an order sheet. Undeterred, we asked for an english menu and were happy that it came in 5 languages. We were able to copy the mainly kana (as opposed to the more familiar kanji) characters from the menu to the order sheet. Elated when the chef delivered our plates, meaning they understood our writing, yay! Okay, mm did all the writing, but I contributed by helping to read the menu. We had uni, squid, ikura, ikura soy, crab roe, salmon, blue fin tuna, medium tuna, scallop — total stack of 14 plates.

Did some basic grocery shopping at the station kiosk — milk, coffee, snacks. Negotiated the tiny shower and went to bed, another happy day.

30in30 #14: no alcohol day


Task #14 in 30 in 30 is to have a day without alcohol.

I woke up today with the knee swelling way down and I was able to walk around without the walking stick. Still a bit stiff and I am limping but the acute pain is gone, just a lot of stiffness. Happy about the quick recovery. The doctor at the hospital gave me a course of NSAIDs for my knee. So it’s time to stay away from alcohol for a couple of days. Even when I went out for dinner with sis and my niece, I had a virgin margarita. This is the first time I ever ordered a virgin cocktail, because I’m of the opinion that if you can’t handle a cocktail, order a coke instead. The margarita tasted like iced lemonade served in a martini glass, it was okay.