What Japanese Whiskey or Sake should I bring home from Tokyo?
March 4, 2016 6:02 PM   Subscribe

I am in Tokyo for the next few days, and want to pick up some uniquely Japanese gifts for my boss & coworkers back in the US. Since they are generally hard to please (and they fancy themselves "connessieurs"), exotic/interesting booze tends to be the easiest thing for me to get for them when I need to get gifts for them.

Because I understand that Japan is renowned for its Whiskey, I was thinking that a good Japanese whiskey or Sake would be good, but I know next to nothing about what brands/styles would be good to get, and would also not be easily available in the US.

I'm looking for specific recommendations for whisky/sake that I can easily purchase in Tokyo (preferably either in Shinjuku or near Tokyo Disney, where I am staying). I don't mind paying a bit extra for a memorable brand, but obviously I also don't want to pay several hundred dollars for a bottle!

For what it's worth, I don't speak or read Japanese at all (though I can decipher hiragana and katakana at a snails pace), so photographs of recommended bottled would be most appreciated.
posted by melorama to Food & Drink (9 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
The Beam takeover by Suntory has opened the door for some of the best Japanese whiskies to enter the US, so it'd be a waste to get something that's available locally. However, a whisky like Nikka From The Barrel isn't imported (because its 50cl bottle isn't a legal size in the US) and not terribly expensive for what it is. So perhaps nab a bottle of that.

Anyway, people who I trust say that sake is generally sold outside Japan in a narrower range at a huge markup, so there's probably more fun to be had there with obscurer styles and brands.
posted by holgate at 6:25 PM on March 4, 2016 [2 favorites]

Seconding Nikka from the barrel. It's a great whiskey and a very unique bottle.
posted by exois at 6:38 PM on March 4, 2016 [1 favorite]

Go over to the D47 at the Hikarie building in Shibuya. D47 does rotating exhibits with specialites from the different prefectures from Japan. They have a wonderful gift store and sell special liquor. I was able to buy some smaller bottles of sake there. They also have some good craft beers. And other lovely handcrafted goods from all over Japan. I could have bought out the store with enough money and luggage. Staff speaks English so they can help you out.
posted by brookeb at 7:32 PM on March 4, 2016 [3 favorites]

If they're serious whiskey nerds and you want to get them a gift that will put them in your debt forever, see if you can get ahold of the Yamizaki 2016 Sherry Cask release. The 2015 one got a ton of hype when it came out last year, which has made getting both it and the 2016 edition next to impossible outside of Japan. If you can snag them a bottle, it'll be a Big Deal.

(Also if you can snag an extra bottle or two extra you'll probably be able to sell them stateside at a massive markup. Like, a 10x markup, if the 2015 is anything to go by)

If you can't find it or its out of your price range, Nikka From The Barrel is also an excellent choice.
posted by Itaxpica at 11:49 PM on March 4, 2016 [1 favorite]

Nthing Nikka from the barrel as a good choice.
Sake! Too many excellent options. Though some is brewed in Tokyo not the best for your purposes. Avoid "Nama" unpasteurized as it won't travel well. Get a daiginjo or junmai daiginjo and you can't go far wrong. Basement of department stores can help. Try to Tobu in nearby ikebukuro. Worth a trip anyway. Hasegawa is a good shop with tasting bar inside Tokyo Station--in Gransta inside the ticket barrier. Brands: Isojiman, Born, Koshi no Kanbai, are all excellent and available.Nambu bijin, Kudoki jozu are good too. Juyondai is trendy but also good. Avoid Dassai as they have a huge intl marketing effort and may be available back home. Kampai!
posted by Gotanda at 2:26 AM on March 5, 2016

Not speaking Japanese is ok. Show the shop my post and they'll see the brands.
Daiginjo 大吟醸 or Junmaidaiginjo 純米大吟醸 are the grades to get.
posted by Gotanda at 2:29 AM on March 5, 2016

Oh! And if you can find anything from Nabeshima, just buy it!
posted by Gotanda at 2:35 AM on March 5, 2016

How about some shochu? It's a unique Japanese spirit (often poorly described as 'Japanese vodka'), difficult to obtain outside of Japan. Shochu Authority in Shiodome or Tokyo Station has thousands of varieties.

If I had to pick just one (which I do, thanks to Canada Customs restrictions) I'd get a bottle of Yamato Zakura imo (sweet potato) shochu - take a screen shot of the home page of http://yamatozakura.com/ and show it to the clerk. Only around 2000 yen a bottle but it's the best thing I ever drank.
posted by Gortuk at 7:01 AM on March 5, 2016

Thanks for the recommendations for Nikka From The Barrel. I ended up finding a lot of them at--of all places--the convenience store next to that awful food court at Ikspiari at Tokyo Disney.
posted by melorama at 9:00 PM on March 8, 2016

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