Postcard 2: Scotch Heaven

Scotch Heaven

They–a whole bunch of them get the attribute–say that you can’t step into the same river twice. So five years on since my last visit to Orbite, my favourite spot to drink and write in Kyoto, I arrive to discover it’s gone. Vanished. There ought to have been an obituary for the place.

Worse, no one is doing happy hours anymore. You can’t wonder why it died. Two for one for two hours? No one makes any money doing that.

Shoganai. I wander around looking for something else that isn’t noisy. I want quiet, comfortable and soothing. Orbite was all of those. Eventually, through a window behind some bamboo I see rows of bottles. I’ve found the Annie Hall Bar in the Kyoto Hot Springs Hatoya Zuihokaku Hotel. It, too, is closed. It’s not yet 5:00. Too tired to do any more walking, I wait.

When it opens I learn that I have found whisky heaven. Perhaps when they promised streets of gold they meant liquid. (We can hope.) Scotch sommelier Hidetada Sano, gestures to the shelves organized into 5 zones. Canada (yay!), the States and Japan take up the first three sections. Scotland takes the other two which are subdivided into Highlands, Lowlands, blends and single malts.

As I am in Japan I ask for Nikka. Sano-san starts to tell the Nikka story, but I know it. Masa and Rita. A man who followed his love for whisky to Scotland and found the love of a woman who followed him to Japan.

Sano Hidetada

I am shown eight bottles. Choices, choices, choices. (The price points help to settle that.) I select the “heavily peated” Yoichi single malt. Heavy for the Japanese maybe, but not for anyone wielding a claymore. But I’m no connoisseur.

By the time I get around to thinking that I ought to write about it, I’m no longer up for the work involved. Yes, work. Ask  writers. They’ll tell you. The interview required to establish the character of the whisky has been trumped by the serendipitous surprise and increasing glow of the moment. Yeah, 48% of that ounce that is sweet golden fire. Peat is a lovely, lovely burn.


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