Suntory Whisky Toki – Tasting Notes

(Courtesy: Suntory Whisky)

(Courtesy: Suntory Whisky)

Suntory Whisky is a distillery that’s been in business since 1899 and most whisky fans have known about them, seeing as they’re one of the only Japanese whisky brands available in the United States (I’m not aware of any others off the top of my head). Suntory is a huge brand though and Suntory Holdings owns familiar names like Jim Beam (Yes, Jim Beam and all the brands associated with it), Laphroaig, Sauza, and many many others. They’re enormous.

Their Japanese whisky line up includes names like Yamazaki, Hakushu, and Hibiki. You may have heard that Yamazaki was named the best whisky in the world by Jim Murray in his Whisky Bible 2015 (specifically, the Yamazaki Single Malt Sherry Cask 2013). They got the chops.

So what’s Toki? It means “time” in Japanese and it’s another entrant into the blend category, to join Hibiki. Yamazaki and Hakushu are single malts from those respective distilleries. Suntory also owns Chita, a single grain whisky, but you won’t find that in the United States. All three are blended to make Toki.

Toki Tasting Notes

Visually, Toki is a light gold color. It doesn’t have a lot of body as you swirl it in the glass (I enjoyed it in a Glencairn).

The nose is nice and delicate, perhaps I’m influenced by the color, but hints of granny smith apples and honey.

The palate continues the theme of lightness, makes me feel like I’m sipping an Irish whisky (triple distilled), with a bit of honey and vanilla.

Finish is there, a bit of heat at the end (43% abv, so not higher than average), and it doesn’t linger long.

Overall

It’s well done and an affordable dram coming at around $40 for a 750mL bottle. It’s one you could drink all night long and not get sick of it but it’s very delicate, nothing jumps out at you about its flavor or nose.

I’ve seen a bunch of places suggest you use it in a highball cocktail, myself included, and I think it truly shines in that role. Much like gin and tonics featuring Hendrick’s gin and its complex botanicals, the honeys, vanillas, and green apple of Toki plays a big role in highballs (which is just whisky and club soda).

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The Apple Claus Cocktail

Whisky doesn’t often need to be mixed but I’m a sucker for a tasty cocktail.

Today, I bring you “The Apple Claus.” It’s a creation of Laura Moore of The Epicurean Hotel Edge rooftop bar (I love that they call themselves a Social Drinkery) and it sounds pretty tasy.

The Apple Claus

The Apple Claus

  • 1 1/2 oz Four Roses Bourbon Small Batch
  • 3/4 oz Apple Cinnamon Tea syrup
  • 1/2 oz Lemon Juice
  • Dash of angostura bitters

Shake and strain into a chilled coupe and top with sparkling wine (prosecco, champagne or Apple Cider.)

Garnish with an orange twist or apple slice.

I enjoy citrus-y cocktails and this one is a reminder of a Manhattan except you use cinnamon tea syrup instead of vermouth (a fortified wine) and add a bit of sparkle to give it some fizz.

As for Four Roses Bourbon Small Batch – it’s a fine bourbon that works well in this cocktail. I enjoy it neat (haven’t tried it on the rocks or with water, it’s 45% abv) and it’s mellow sweet notes work well in an apple/citrus type of cocktail. Very nice.

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Booker’s Tasting Notes (Batch 2015-04)

booker-batch-4The first time I sipped Booker’s I had no idea what I was in for.

My wife bought it for me as a gift. It came in this nice wooden box, the bottle looked cool, and the sauce inside looked rich and delicious.

I was not prepared for 127 proof bourbon! (cask strength baby) The best part is that I didn’t know until the next day after I overindulged, not even realizing it packed a little bit (OK, a lot) more punch than your average whisky in the 80-86 proof range.

When I sipped it, I knew it was strong. But bourbon is already sweeter than scotch… but Booker’s on the nose is so much brown sugar, vanilla and caramel. You could pour this on pancakes! (So delicious) The bite afterwards, since it is 63.5% alcohol by volume, is noticeable but not big enough to make me think much of it! I paid for it the next day but I enjoyed every moment I ran up the bill.

What’s fun about Booker’s is that they are released in batches. Mine was Batch 2015-04, called Oven Buster Batch, and here is what the Master Distiller Fred Doe wrote about it:

“This batch is called the “Oven Buster” batch for the incident that happened to my mother when she cooked with my father’s early batches of Booker’s Bourbon. She actually blew the oven door open using the Booker’s to finish her pork roast she baked. This batch has some vanilla notes and a nice oaky full-bodied aroma. The flavor is well balanced with a finish that is pleasant and leaves you wanting another taste.“

  • Nose: Vanilla, brown sugar, caramel, maybe a hint of oak behind the heat.
  • Taste: Vanilla and brown sugar from the get go, a pepper kick from the alcohol near the end.
  • Finish: A nice loooooooooooooooong finish, it coats your mouth for a minute and gets your salivary glands going. Your saliva and what remains is probably 40% abv. Definitely some oak finish and that lingering vanilla. Not much burn from the alcohol.

Overall, this can be a dangerous dram and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

If you’re looking to get something nice for a bourbon fan, you will do quite well with Booker’s.

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Who are Jack Daniels, Jim Beam, Johnnie Walker and other fun whiskey facts

We’re not talking boring whiskey trivia like “Oh hey guys, whiskey in Gaelic is known as ‘Uisge Beatha’ which means “water of life.” (That factoid is all true, but it’s pedestrian because everyone knows it).

We’re talking the fun stuff.

Let’s first talk about some of the most famous names in whiskey — Jack Daniels, Jim Beam, and Johnnie Walker.

Jack Daniels is named after its founder, Jasper Newton “Jack” Daniel. When Jack was a young boy, he ran away from home and was taken in by a preacher and moonshine distiller named Dan Call, where Jack learned the distillation trade. He would later found a legally registered distilling business and the “Old No. 7” referred to his government registration number (No. 7 in district 4). Districts were later redrawn and Jack Daniel’s became Number 16 in district 5, so he kept the Old No. 7 label instead.

Who are Jack Daniels, Jim Beam, Johnnie Walker and other fun whiskey facts!Jim Beam is named after James Beauregard Beam and he was not the founder of Jim Beam Bourbon. It was actually started several generations earlier by the Böhm family, which would later change their surname to Beam, in the late 18th century (1795 to be exact). The James B. Beam Distilling Company would be founded later, built off the work of the family business in distilling, and take on the name Jim Beam.

Johnnie Walker was first known as Walker’s Kilmarnock Whisky and was created by John “Johnnie” Walker, a grocer in Ayrshire, Scotland who sold whisky in his store. The Johnnie Walker name wouldn’t become famous until Johnnie’s son Alexander Walker and grandson Alexander Walker II made it famous – that’s why you often see John Walker & Sons on box sets and some bottles.

The Chivas Brothers weren’t actually brothers. Ha, just kidding, they started off as a grocer in Aberdeen in 1801, selling luxury goods and would eventually supply the royal family at Balmoral Castle. Eventually, James Chivas started to blend whiskies for wealthier clients and a brand was born. John just came along for the ride. 🙂

Did you know that Bourbon County in Kentucky is a “dry” county? You can’t sell any liquor there!

It’s believed that whiskey originated in Ireland where monks began distillation as far back as the 5th century, not Scotland. This is based on tax records where the Exchequer recorded that in 1495 an allowance was made to a friar for “aqua vitae.”

What’s your favorite bit of whisky trivia?

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Japanese Highball Cocktail

(Credit: Joe Leonard)

(Credit: Joe Leonard)

I was recently sent a bottle of Suntory TOKI, which is Suntory’s (home of many brands including famed whisky brand Yamazaki) whisky blend sourced from Hakushu, Yamazaki, and Chita. I’ve yet to try it but the tasting notes hint at a fruity, green/mint tone that will be interesting to try out.

One thing I did want to share is a fun little classic cocktail known as a Highball. Technically, a Highball is any spirit mixed with a larger percentage of a non-alcoholic mixer. Traditionally, the most common one is scotch whisky and carbonated water – a scotch and soda.

As you’d imagine, a Japanese Highball involves a Japanese whisky like Toki, carbonated water, and a garnish as photo’d.

Japanese Highball Cocktail

  • 2 oz whisky
  • 2-4 oz. club soda

In a 12 oz glass, fill it with ice. Add in the whisky, stir, then add in the club soda, stir gently. Garnish with an orange if you’d like.

Enjoy!

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