I have been mixing and shaking all sorts of concoctions, for a panoply of characters, for a decade or so. And I have tried pretty much everything out there. But I have to say: Nothing ever soothes me like a good whiskey. It’s like warm honey to my soul.
I’ve even recorded a song about it, “Me and My Whiskey,” for my new album, Street Candid.
I’m especially fond of Japanese artistry when it comes to this holy liquor. It’s no secret they make some of the best whisky in the world. As I have advanced toward longer-aged, smokey, but still pungent single malts, I have found my sweet spot with the Hakushu Distillery, a brand owned by Suntory. Called the “Forest” distillery, Hakushu’s production facility is set near Mount Kaikoma, in a bit of altitude, surrounded by a lush and grandiose forest, home to many animals and birds. I’m just painting a picture here, because that’s what the bottle captures: Nature hits you the second you open it.
A whiff of freshly cut grass with very subtle hints of almonds and peaches comes through right away on the nose, preparing you for something elegant. Thanks to low pressure distillation, the aromas have an unusual density and character. Smokiness is definitely present as well—but it’s on the palate that you fully receive its richness.
Surprisingly, it’s the fruit notes that reveal themselves first, layer by layer when you taste it. The flavors are elevated by a zesty and oaky wave that brings everything together. And by noting “fruit,” I absolutely do not mean sweet; this is still a decidedly robust whisky, with an almost grassy bite. I have heard the finish described as “lemony.” Some say it has cinnamon touches. I say it’s delicious: Sacred, smooth, and comforting.
This particular Hakushu batch has won several accolades and awards, from Gold at the World Whiskies Award (2016) to 1st place in the International Whisky Competition (2015), but most importantly it has found its way to my home bar’s top shelf as a serious elixir of inspiration—a new muse.