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WHISKY Land of the Rising photos by the author rom the glam and glitz of the fashionable boutiques along Tokyo’s Ginza district to the nonstop shimmy and sparkle of Shibuya’s nightclubs, Suntory—the number one distiller in Japan and one of the world’s largest single malt distillers—is changing the way people think about and drink whisky. While making the rounds in both Tokyo and Kyoto, the most popular cocktail I saw was the retro-themed Highball, a four-to-one mixture of Yamazaki 12 Year Old, soda and ice (often using slower-melting hand-chipped balls rather than cubes); more serious contenders order it in a three-to-one ratio. But instead of sip- ping it before dinner, the Japanese prefer these effervescent Highballs with food. Meanwhile, at the Ginza’s Hibiya Bar Whisky-S, the Japanese equivalent of $25 gets you an assortment of Yamazaki single malts plus a grain whisky to create your own blend. And at the Mitsukoshi department store—Tokyo’s equivalent of Harrods—the food hall displays everything from Hibiki blends to Yamazaki single malts alongside their Scotch counterparts. Founded in 1923 by Shinjiro Torii in the mist-shrouded Yamazaki valley, the distillery uses the same pure, soft Rikyu waters as in Japan’s tea ceremonies. In 1973 a second distillery, Hakushu, serenely nestled within lofty forests at the base F Suntory RICHARD CARLETON HACKER REPORTS FROM JAPAN Japan’s rugged Mt. Kai-Komagatake Alps provides the ideal climate for some of Suntory’s fi nest single malts. 92 / the tasting panel / november 2010

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