Suntory time: Japanese whisky named world’s best in sour dram for Scotland
World Whisky Bible gives highest mark to Yamazaki single malt while spiritual homeland’s ranking is dramatically watered down
Scottish drinkers could be forgiven for crying into their drams after a single malt from Japan was named the best whisky in the world for the first time.
Whisky expert Jim Murray awarded a record-equalling 97.5 marks out of 100 to Suntory’s Yamazaki Single Malt Sherry Cask 2013, hailing it as “near indescribable genius” in his comments in the forthcoming 2015 World Whisky Bible.
Murray’s tasting notes described the whisky, from the company’s distillery near Kyoto in western Japan, as possessing “a nose of exquisite boldness” and as “thick, dry, [and] as rounded as a snooker ball”.
It is the first time since the guide was first published 12 years ago that the top award has gone to a whisky from Japan. The country’s whiskies were once the butt of jokes but have won a slew of awards and widespread critical acclaim in recent years.
To compound the pain felt in the spiritual home of the “water of life”, this is the first time that not a single Scottish whisky made it into the top five in Murray’s respected guide.
Suntory’s winning whisky is aged for 12 to 15 years in casks previously used for Oloroso sherry, giving it what Murray described as a “light, teasing spice”.
Why invest in ‘the hardest plant to grow’?
For nearly 30 years, Brian Oates has, in his words, “pig-headedly” devoted himself to a single pursuit: setting up the first commercial wasabi farm in North America.
Dozens of others in the US and Canada have tried to grow the plant – a type of horseradish that originates in Japan, where it is found growing naturally in rocky river beds – but almost all have failed.
The reason is simple: wasabi is deemed by most experts to be the most difficult plant in the world to grow commercially.
So what drives Mr Oates, and his business Pacific Coast Wasabi (PCW), other than his stated stubbornness?
Fetching nearly $160 (£98) per kilogram at wholesale, in addition to being hard to nurture, wasabi is also one of the most lucrative plants on the planet.
“It is much like gold – we expect to pay a lot for gold. Well, we expect to pay a lot for wasabi,” says Mr Oates.
The real thing
The first thing to know about wasabi – or Wasabia japonica, as it’s officially known – is that you have probably never tried the real thing.
That light green paste nestled next to the pink ginger in your box of sushi? It is most likely a mix of mustard, European horseradish, and food colouring.
In fact, by some estimates, only 5% of the wasabi served in Japanese restaurants around the world comes from the rhizome, or root, of a wasabi plant.
How to eat wasabi
The methods for eating real wasabi differ significantly from those of the powdered kind, particularly if the plant is fresh.
In its most traditional preparation, the root is stood on a grater made of a piece of sharkskin stapled to a wooden paddle. Using a circular, clockwise motion, one presses the rhizome down and a paste is formed.
The heat and flavour – significantly less bracing than imitation wasabi, but similarly sharp – last only for 10 to 15 minutes, so wasabi is grated as needed.
Nobu Ochi has been buying the wasabi Mr Oates produces from the beginning, and selling it to customers at his Zen Japanese restaurant in downtown Vancouver.
“We send the grater out with the wasabi in it, and let them have the experience of grating fresh wasabi,” says Mr Oichi.
“Once they taste it, like anything else that’s good, you don’t want to go back to the other stuff.”
Source: BBCNews Read and see more
Burger King launches black burger in Japan – and no, it’s not just burnt
The chain’s goth-like burger, with black buns, black cheese and black sauce, is a bizarre addition to the menu. But it’s not the only food to go back to black
It may look like leftover burnt scraps of a late-summer barbecue, stuffed with melted tyre fillings, but this bizarre black combination is just Burger King’s latest menu option for Japan.
The incinerated-looking buns are darkened with bamboo charcoal, and the same has been used to give the poisonous-looking cheese its melted-tar look. The beef burgers, meanwhile, have added black pepper, and are topped with an onion and garlic sauce mixed with squid ink.
The international chain says it is the third time it has released a goth-like burger (the others had black buns and black ketchup) and diners have so far given them a “favourable reception.”
Strange as they seem, however, Burger King’s Kuro Pearl and Kuro Diamond are not the first black burgers around.
Source: TheGuardian Read and see more
Elephant Dung Beer
A Japanese brewery introduced a new brew that incorporates coffee beans that have been digested by an elephant in the newest addition to a growing fad.
Sankt Gallen created the brew, “Un, Kono Kuro,” and according to RocketNews24, Sankt Gallen sold out of the brew on the first day of its sale on April Fools’ Day. The beer does not actually use dung in the brew, but the coffee beans are digested by the elephants to unlock new earthly flavors of the bean.
Source: Chiang Rai Bulletin
Sankt Gallen Sweet Vanilla Stout
This ‘Gallen’ character seems to be popular…
“The founding of St. Gallen is attributed to the Irish monk Gallus (ca 550–620 or 640), who built a hermitage by the river Steinach in 612 AD.” – Wikipedia
St Gallen is also the name of a Brazilian beer (weissbier and stout/porter styles) made in the mountainous part of Rio de Janeiro state, it appears the Japanese have latched onto the marketing tool too, which doesn’t surprise me.
Whereas, St Gallen is actually a city in Switzerland, and has been since an abbey was built there c720 and in the 1500s became a textile centre and today has one of the best business universities in the world… nothing to do with beer at all.
It seems to me that the use of St Gallen is nothing more than a marketing ploy to sell beer.
The stout/porter I have tried, a little too sweet for a stout, nothing to write home about.
Karei no Nitsuke – Simmered Turbot!
Karei/Turbot or halibut is a cheap and very popular fish in Japan, especially cooked, steamed, simmered or deep-fried.
Here is a very easy recipe found in many homes and izakayas:
See: Shizuoka Gourmet for photos & recipes of this and other dishes. Great blog!
NB: An izakaya (居酒屋) is a type of Japanese drinking establishment which also serves food to accompany the drinks – Wikipedia