Suntory, the company founded by Japan’s original whisky master Shinjiro Torii, is embarking on a mission of whisky enlightenment.
This week, Suntory takes over Hihou, Simon Denton’s sultry, Tokyo-inspired bar on Flinders Lane for one night only on June 18. It’s the first instalment of the House of Suntory – a series of Australia-wide pop-ups in which the award-winning distiller launches several new varieties of its famous Japanese whisky, and shows us how best to enjoy them.
“Japanese whisky – the flavour and profile – is quite different to Scotch,” Matt Barnett, a brand manager at Suntory explains. Not only is the flavour subtler, the whisky tends to be prepared and consumed in a particular way.
So at the pop-up, guests can try a whisky highball – the Japanese version of a whisky and soda. Each lovingly prepared highball, with hand-cut ice, is garnished according to the flavor of the whisky used. The flagship Yamazaki single malt is accompanied by a thin slice of lemon to complement its citrus notes, while the Hukushu variety, produced at a mountain distillery, is served with a single leaf of mint.
“People don’t really drink highballs here,” says Denton. “They’ll have it neat or on the rocks.” But the founder of Izakaya Den likes the highball, “Because you still get the flavours – it’s just more delicate.”
Also distinct from its Scottish forebear, the accompaniment of food is integral to the whisky experience. The Japanese drink their whisky in restaurants or Izakaya bars, with friends and throughout meals, Barnett explains.
Denton and co. have readied a pairing menu specially for the event. Guests can sample oden, a traditional Japanese winter broth, alongside Suntory’s Hibiki whisky blend. Denton’s favourite Suntory variety, Hakashu, will be paired with a smoky, pine-mushroom karaage – a crunchy, deep-fried dish.
The pairing we’re most excited about is with the Hihou Dog. It’s a Japanese hot-dog of pork sausage, brioche bun and tonkatsu sauce which will be paired with the Yamazaki, the very first Japanese whisky and to this day the highest-selling single malt in Japan.
Guests can book at www.hihou.com.au
Prices: $20 for a whisky and paired bar snack $45 for a three-course menu paired with three whiskies $100 for the full six-course tasting experience with a matched Suntory Whisky for each course.
Hihou First Floor, 1 Flinders Lane Melbourne (03) 9654 5465
Mon to Fri 11.30am–2.30pm Mon to Sat 5pm–1am