Exploring Japanese Whisky at Post Office Place
Beer & Spirits
Japanese whisky seems to be repeating its own history here in Salt Lake: beginning as something small and specific then expanding to offer a huge variety. I spoke with Richard Romney of local bar Post Office Place about its rise in popularity, prevalence in Salt Lake City and what makes Japanese whisky so special.
Here’s a little history: Japanese whisky tends to be most similar to Scotch and is often crafted in the same way. Its ingredients may even be sourced from Scotland. However, while Scotch-makers focus on following strict tradition, Japanese distilleries expand their processes beyond the whisky norm, looking to diversify and perfect the flavors their spirits can express. Several aspects of the distilling process can tweak the taste of a whisky, from the water source used to the actual stills with which the spirit is distilled—especially the wood used to barrel and age the whisky. Many Japanese whiskies are barreled with local mizunara wood, adding a uniquely Japanese flavor and aroma.
Scotch’s influence on Japanese whisky dates back to the first malt whisky distillery built in Japan, Suntory Yamazaki Distillery. Masataka Taketsuru, who studied whisky in Scotland, was hired as the director of the distillery in 1923 and is now considered the father of Japanese whisky. His Shirofuda whisky, Japan’s first authentic whisky, transformed Kotobukiya, a store that sold imported wine into Suntory. Suntory’s popularity and success inspired other distilleries to open in Japan, leading to a vast range of Japanese whiskies available, including here in Salt Lake.
“[Japanese] distilleries have been able to diversify their spirits in a number of interesting and delicious ways, making whisky from corn, wheat and even rice.”
Romney, the general manager of sushi restaurant Takashi and sister bar Post Office Place, has been collecting and acquiring Japanese whiskies for over 12 years. Through years of bargaining with distributors and placing orders whenever possible, Romney has built an impressive library of over 30 Japanese whiskies at Post Office Place. Takashi even boasts their Ohishi house whisky from Hinomaru Distillery, a longtime distribution partner of Post Office Place.
Romney professes that there is a Japanese whisky for anyone who likes whisky, and it’s clear that Post Office Place is the spot to try them out. Their offerings include Ichiro’s Malt & Grain, a “world whisky” made of a blend of whiskies from five different countries: Nikka Whisky From The Barrel, a blend of single malt and single grain whisky with a punchy ABV of 51.4%; the rare Yamazaki 18-year and its fruity younger sibling, Yamazaki 12; Mars Iwai, a well-balanced corn whisky; and, of course, Takashi’s house whisky Ohishi, with notes of sherry, ginkgo nut and caramel.
“Japanese distilleries expand their processes beyond the whisky norm, looking to diversify and perfect the flavors their spirits can express.”
Post Office Place recommends that guests order whisky neat (no ice, just whisky in a glass), on the rocks or in the classic highball cocktail. Ordering your whisky neat will give you the most powerful impact of flavor. Having your spirit served over ice can help to dilute the whisky and reduce the sweetness of the spirit, allowing its bitter flavors to shine. Finally, the classic whisky highball came about as a way to more easily drink whisky with food, tempering the spirit with soda water and enabling you to better enjoy it with your meal.
Post Office Place is extremely proud to flaunt their large collection of Japanese whiskies, highlighting what Romney considers the most notable quality of Japanese whisky—their incredible variety. Because Japan has fewer rules regarding whisky-making, distilleries have been able to diversify their spirits in a number of interesting and delicious ways, making whisky from corn, wheat and even rice. Post Office Place particularly cares about highlighting smaller distilleries, and you’ll find detailed blurbs about each distillery they source from on their drink menu. They even offer half-pours (0.75 oz.) to make it easier to try as many different whiskies as you’d like.
Their enthusiasm goes beyond the Post Office Place menu, as all staff are highly trained to recommend the right whisky for each customer based on preferences. Visit Post Office Place to try them out for yourself—especially on a Wednesday when most of their Japanese whisky is 20% off!