Last night Suntory, the company that began Japan’s 90-year whisky tradition, held a tasting event at the Noguchi Museum in Long Island City, Queens. The Museum’s outdoor gardens, filled with Isamu Noguchi’s carved stone sculptures, was a perfect setting for it. The crowd enjoyed a tasting of Yamazaki 18-year-old, Hakushu 25-year-old, and Hibiki 21-year-old whiskys — all guided by Mike Miyamoto, Suntory’s global brand ambassador.
The host of the event was Suntory USA CEO Toshi Kumakura. He was introduced by Neyah White, one of Suntory’s US brand ambassadors. The other US ambassador, Gardner Dunn, gave an ice carving demonstration, hand-cutting crystal-clear ice into spheres to serve with Hibiki 12-year-old whisky.
After the main group tasting, Neyah White was pouring samples of the three whiskys we tried at the beginning of the evening, along with Yamazaki 25, Hakushu 18 and Hibiki 17.
And of course, as is modern Japanese tradition, there were lots of highballs to be had. The Hakushu Highball, served with a smashed mint leaf and sparkling “Premium Soda from Yamazaki,” paradoxically brought out the Hakushu 12-year-old’s smoky flavor. I wasn’t as impressed with the Yamazaki Mizuwari, a simple mix of Yamazaki 12 and Suntory bottled spring water. The Yamazaki’s delicate fruit and wood notes were totally lost to me palate doused with so much ice and water.