If there’s a day of the week in need of a stiff drink, it’s Wednesday. Monday needs caffeine, and Tuesday is a vague haze, but by Wednesday, life is starting to sag under the weight of the rest of the week. It’s time for a pick-me-up.
But what to drink? Nothing too showy – Wednesday is a school night, after all. Still, something special is called for. On a recent Wednesday night at Farrier, a James Street basement bar, the answer was whisky.
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To be precise, the answer was Japanese whisky from that powerhouse of assorted spirits, Suntory. Although it’s now most famous as the owner of Jim Beam, Suntory has been distilling whisky in Japan since the 1940s. Farrier was giving guests the chance to sample some of the range, from the cheap stuff through to bottles not currently available in Australia.
The beginning of the night had a convivial cocktail party feel, which suits Farrier’s cosy mid twentieth century design down to the ground. As they entered, midweek revellers were encouraged to mix themselves one of Japan’s favourite drinks – a highball (made with Suntory, of course). There was a trained bartender on hand to explain the basics, and to make sure no one was sneaking extra whisky into their glass.
After everyone faced their own mixology skills, the evening took a serious turn. In front of each armchair and barstool stood three whisky tasting flutes (a flight, in fact), holding Hibiki, Hakushu, and Yamazaki 12-year old. The key to tasting a good whisky is to stop yourself from drinking it before the story behind the whisky has been told.
Typically, the more established the whisky, the longer the story. Professional tasters must possess immense will power and score highly on tests of delayed gratification. Luckily for those in the room, each Suntory story was just a breezy 10 minutes or so.
Between whisky tales, various key ingredients in the distilling process were passed around the group, including malted barley, a lump of peat, and a piece of an oak barrel, used to store whisky as it ages. Hungry drinkers didn’t need to resort to sneaking handfuls of malted barley – which tastes like popcorn – to keep their stomachs happy. Without interrupting the show-and-tell, Farrier’s staff deftly laid out delicious bao and spicy fried cuttlefish. Not foods traditionally paired with whisky, but ever since a Suntory Yamazaki release was named World Whisky of the Year for 2015, it’s a brave new world.
Speaking of the whisky, was all that waiting and listening and sniffing worth it? In a word: yes. Each glass was a reminder that Suntory dominates whisky in Japan, and increasingly in other parts of Asia and the US, for a reason. Their whisky certainly is worth tasting, provided you can get your hands on it.
Unsurprisingly, the standout Yamazaki 12-year-old has been so popular that there’s currently a worldwide shortage of supply and Australia is one of the countries sitting on the call back list.
You’ll have to be well connected to get a bottle, or if you’re only after a glass, just wait for the next Suntory event. Its sweet, slightly fruity flavours and warm caramel tones were reason enough to venture out in the middle of the week.
On the way out, there was just time for a glance over Farrier’s cocktail menu, then time to order a cocktail, and then – best of all – plenty of time to drink it. Farrier is open, serving food and drinks until 2am every day of the week.
In this case, the drink, called a Lotus Eater, was just begging to be tried. Very few bars in Brisbane stock Metaxa, and fewer still mix cocktails with it.
Review by Kit Kriewaldt. Featured image credit: Farrier.