When we go to Radio Bar, we think of great music, great ambiance and most importantly great, fresh cocktails.
But what we didn’t expect was a tasting of some of the rarest Japanese whiskies in the world. We not only did our share of tasting, but we learned a lot and now we are on the hunt for some very limited Japanese Whisky. To put this into perspective, 20-30 bars and restaurants in South Florida carry Yamazaki. This was the first whisky created in Japan.
As we entered Radio Bar, we were greeted by head barman, Ted Collins, who escorted us to one of their newest concepts, Red Ginger. This beautiful spot is a southeast Asian concept with a great selection of spirits and delectable food. Both Radio Bar and Red Ginger are owned and operated by Menin Hospitality. Here we toured the space and were given a cup of sake to begin the evening.
We made our way back to Radio Bar where we were then greeted by Territory Manager for Beam-Suntory, Victor Sanchez. Here we spoke a little bit about the history of Japanese Whisky and how it became what it is today. The quick version is that Japan was exposed to Scotch by a gentlemen named Matthew Perry (no not that one!) who brought gallons of the liquid as a gift. Japan began producing their own whisky. Two men, Shinjiro Torii and Masataka Taketsuru, set out to change the world of whisky. Shinjiro was the founder of Suntory, while Masataka was a chemist who worked at the distillery. Masataka went on and founded his own distillery which later became known as Nikka.
Scotch has always been the benchmark for whiskies around the world but it wasn’t until 2001 that Japanese whiskies made a splash by winning “Best of the Best” at the Whisky Magazine Awards. After that, Japanese whiskies were noticed all around the world. Suntory continues to wow the whisky world through awards including: International Spirits Challenge: Distiller of the Year, 2010, 2012, 2013 and International Wine & Spirits Competition: Best in Class, 2011 (Yamazaki).
Our first taste was Hakushu, a 12 year, lightly peated whisky. To note, all of the barley and peat used in the whisky is directly imported from Scotland. It is then aged in former sherry and bourbon barrels. It is 86 proof which comes through with fruity aromas and soft smoke.
Side note: What is peat? Peat is basically decayed vegetation that has accumulated over time. Peat is used to dry the malt and this is where the smokiness comes into play.
Our next taste, was Hibiki 12, a beautiful bottle with a blend of 12 years old and filtered through bamboo charcoal. This is also aged in ex-bourbon, sherry and plum barrels. Hibiki was a standout for Spirited Miami with tropical notes on the nose and banana, cherries and a bit of sweet spiciness on the palate. It was a medium finish that kept you wanting more.
Lastly, we tasted Yamazaki 12. This is the original pioneer in Japanese whisky and it did not disappoint. A medium-bodied whisky with flavors of honey, apricots and dried mango. The finish is tingling and spicy with cassia bark and ginger.
After this, we were treated to a cocktail creation session with Marko Tomovic. We used bar tools set up for us and created our own cocktails (and the bartools were ours to keep). All in all, it was an educational and fun session delving into the history of Japanese whisky.
Feel left out? Don’t worry, Radio Bar hosts monthly classes in spirits! Bring a friend, bring a date or come on your own. These fun, educational courses don’t disappoint! And there is always a fun gift to take home.
On July 28th, Radio is hosting an educational Pisco Mixology Class, which coincides with Peruvian Independence Day (Pisco is national spirit of Peru). Guests will learn how to make a pisco sour and a pisco mule.