While scotch has always found its way in every self-respecting liquor cabinet, Japanese whisky is an arguably novel taste, one that has only begun to intrigue local palates in the last few years. To begin a whisky collection, one turns to the experts at Lit Manila. Whether it be through a glass of Hibiki before dinner or a Yamazaki after a long day, this Japanese whisky bar certainly knows about the joy of a good tipple. In fact, the Lit team is so passionate about the drink that they hold regular classes throughout each month — Whisky 101 and an Introduction to Japanese Whisky — to encourage a deeper love for whisky.
So over late afternoon Suntory highballs, Lit’s co-owner and whisky and spirits concierge Francis Hasegawa reveals what one must know about collecting Japan’s underrated treasure.
Never hesitate over a bottle
“If you are in Tokyo, you should check out liquor stores. But now it’s getting harder and harder [because the demand for Japanese whisky has been increasing]. Before, you’d probably be able to encounter different kinds of whiskies, but now the choices are limited. So when you find one, get it. That’s what I advise my customers, especially in Japan.”
Go straight to the distilleries
“One great trip is to go to distilleries in Japan. For example, we went to Yoichi distillery, which is in Hokkaido, just a few months ago. They were selling these bottles that are only available at the distillery. It’s also fun, because you get to learn about the whisky-making process. And you keep going back because they keep releasing new stuff, too. You never know what you’re going to see.”
Visit bars to know what you like
“[Starting a collection] depends on your taste, what you like. I don’t think many people will collect something they don’t like, even if it’s precious. If you want to taste it, go to bars. That’s what bars are for. Some people like to tell me, it’s cheaper to drink back home. Of course, then why don’t you? The world of bars are to offer a memorable experience, something you can’t recreate at home. It’s something [we at Lit] take seriously, because it would affect the flavor. It would also affect the experience — the clink, the voice, the sound, the holding of the glass.”
Store your bottles properly
“Always try to keep it in a dark place, a cool place. Could be like, 10-15 degrees (Celsius). Somewhere with no direct sunshine. And if it’s a really precious bottle, I advise you to protect the lid with saran wraps because after a few years, it will slowly start to evaporate.”
Enjoy your collection
“I notice some people like to collect, and they don’t even really drink. But come on now, open your eyes. If you spend all that energy visiting the distilleries in Scotland or Ireland or even Taiwan… so yeah, for some people the product becomes an obsession. The way to collect is to buy one drink and you buy on to collect. Because if you don’t get to sample it, why collect?”
Lit will be having its Whisky 101 class on May 15 and its Introduction to Japanese Whisky Volume 1 class on May 16, with a Volume 2 class in June. For more information, visit them on Facebook.com/LitManila. Lit is located in G/F Serendra, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig.
Interview by Marbbie Tagabucba
Photo by JL Javier