If you’ve exhausted your personal roster of Kentucky-bred bourbons and the peaty bite of scotch just isn’t calling out these days, look no further than an ever-expanding roster of whisky from Southeast Asia to keep your brown-liquor-loving heart afloat. Whether on the hunt for an ultra-rare Japanese bottle to sample or itching to break into some up-and-coming markets (Taiwan, perhaps?), these seven bars will ensure your whistle is properly wet.
It was already clear that the team behind Seven Grand knew its stuff about Japanese whisky. Fortunately for brown liquor nerds, they decided to step their game up another notch with Bar Jackalope, a teeny tiny Japanese-style selection with a killer selection tucked away in the backroom. For the super serious Japanese whisky lover, you can rent a locker to store your personal bounty for $250 a pop. If you’d rather opt for a Japanese-whisky-tinged cocktail, the Tokyo Highball (crafted with Suntory Hakushu 12-year-old) is a solid move.
A sleeper hit of the Asian whisky scene, Chicago’s Berkshire Room is worth seeking out. Located inside the swanky Acme Hotel, the bar has black-and-white tiled floors and an overarching midcentury vibe that might not make sense at first, but as you slide into a glass of Ichiro’s Chichibu Floor Malted, clocking in at a cool 101-proof, everything will seem right in the world.
Sure, you know you love Japanese whisky. But if you’re ready to start exploring the lesser-known offerings of Southeast Asia’s malty fare, Multnomah Whiskey Library is the place to begin the quest. You never know just quite what bottles will turn up on the shelves here, and while official “memberships” are already at capacity (read: you can’t make a reservation), walk-ins are always accepted for those on a pilgrimage or just looking for a great drink.
Bar Goto is a contemporary izakaya where you’d be remiss not to indulge in some of the extraordinary bar snacks—plum vinegar octopus with seaweed mix, anyone?—while sipping on the choice of the day when it comes to the ever-rotating whisky special, like an Akashi 5-year-old sherry cask.
You’d think this low-slung, dark and eternally busy whiskey bar that prides itself on a steady allegiance to Old Grand-Dad would sleep on its Japanese selection. Not so. An impressive roster of bottles from Suntory to Nikka will be sure to impress, and for the seriously adventurous, the Yoichi 15-year-old, made in direct coal fire stills, is your new best friend.
Wolf & Crane might be a relative newcomer on the scene in Los Angeles, but it’s already carving out a niche for itself when it comes to Taiwanese whiskey. A handful of Taiwan’s finest, including the Kavalan Solist Vinho Barrique single-cask-strength single malt, which won the World Whisky Championship in 2015, are available on any given day, and a strong roster of Japanese whisky ensures that the less experimental won’t go thirsty. Insider tip? If you want to ball out on a budget, every Monday night, the top shelf spirits are all 50 percent off.
When it comes to Japanese whisky—or really, any kind of whisk(e)y—Canon is a true no-brainer. Soaring shelves are packed with bottle upon bottle of bourbon, scotch and that super weird rye you thought might not actually exist. After consulting the Captain’s List, it becomes clear very quickly you’ll be able to find some ultra-rare Japanese bottles (unicorns, even) among the whopping five pages worth of offerings. And don’t sleep on a short-but-sweet list of Indian whiskey, too.
During late 2015 and early 2016, Crane & Turtle made a name for itself on the national whiskey radar when it regularly played host to the pop-up Bar Otsukare, which allowed a set of bartenders to show off their deeply impressive personal collections of Asian whiskies. When the bar shuttered in April 2016, it was a blow for Asian whiskey lovers across the region. Here’s hoping a comeback story is in the works.
Mixing your cocktail