Thursday, October 09, 2014

Tokyo notes - Buying and tasting whisk(e)y

Ichiro's Malt Chichibu French Oak Single Cask #2357 (photo from Isetan blog)
Just a super quick post to remind myself (and to share with you) to always visit the alcohol section in the basement of Isetan Department Store in Shinjuku, Tokyo. The main reason, aside from its rather reasonable selection of wines (reasonably priced if you compare them to HK, but then again, HK is ridic), is the whisk(e)y selection and tasting bar. Yes, a bar in a department store.

I'm not suggesting that this bar is a good place to hang out with friends, but if you're looking to buy some whisk(e)y you haven't tasted, check and see if the bar ("tasting counter") is serving it. You can't miss it once you find the whisky section. For a tiny price (like a few hundred yen), you can get a taster, and some info from the bartender too, depending on how good your Japanese is, or how good their English is.

Tasting Counter (photo from Isetan blog)
Last time I went I was even able to try the two newish single cask releases from Ichiro's Malt, Chichibu Chibidaru #877 2010 and French Oak #2357 2009. (The latter I really regret not buying, which prompted this post, but anyway).

The bar also stocks some other liquors like gins, and it looks like the selection for tasting changes regularly. I went once in January this year, and once in September, and both times the selection looked completely different.

There is a pretty high tax and/or margin on alcohol here, so I wouldn't suggest buying something that's easily available at duty free shops at the airport (eg. common labels under the Nikka umbrella).

There's also a huge sake selection and very decent wine selection (plus a part called "Grand Cave" for fine wines, also with a mini tasting bar, but the selection there was only so-so when I last visited).

Isetan Shinjuku
Food Hall B1/F
3-14-1, Shinjuku
Tokyo 160-0022
+81 3 3352 1111


  1. nulle4:51 am

    what kind of prices are we staring at given the different whiskies?

    1. It really depends on what the bottle is. I think the Chichibu French Oak was around 10,000 yen? Isetan has an online store - the more common labels are available there, so you can check out the prices (although I wouldn't suggest buying the "common" labels there, as explained above).