A drink for all seasons: Japanese whisky cocktails

Hibiki Hakuro
In Britain, the seasons are notoriously unpredictable, and we have only four of them. In Japan, they have 24 seasons, from the beginning of spring in early February to the “major cold” in late January, each starting on “sekki” – days that divide the solar year into the 24 equal sections. These have provided inspiration for mixologist Zoran Peric to create 24 different cocktails for Suntory’s portfolio of Yamazaki, Hibiki and Hakushu whiskies.

Some of these were presented at a tasting earlier this summer at the Saatchi Gallery in Chelsea, London, where Suntory is a corporate sponsor. Zoran, who is Suntory brand ambassador, served up just a handful of the new cocktails but all 24 are now being promoted to the trade by UK distributor Cellar Trends as the months roll by.

Yamazaki Rishuu
Rishuu is the “beginning of autumn” in early August, and Zoran has created the Yamazaki Rishuu, a serve that uses a Japanese-style inventiveness with the ice:

50ml Yamazaki 12 Year Old Single Malt
150ml Soda
Ice ball infused with lemon and orange peel

Pour the whisky and soda over the ice ball in a highball glass. Stir to extract a taste of the lemon and orange and garnish with lemon and orange slices.

Next is Shosho – “the limit of heat” – which starts on August 23. Zoran’s inspiration for the Hakushu Shosho comes from this being a time when the perfume from garden roses is wafted around on an autumn breeze:

Hakushu Shosho
50ml Hakushu 12 Year Old Single Malt
150ml Soda water
15ml Rose water
Fresh mint

Pour the whisky over crushed ice in a highball glass. Stir in the rose water and add the soda water. Garnish with a mint sprig and rose petals.

September 7 is Hakuro, the start of the season of “white dew” when the appearance of dew heralds the approach of cooler seasons. The Hibiki Hakuro (pictured top) is designed to suit a time when the temperature starts to fall:

50ml Hibiki 17 Year Old Blended Malt Whisky
50ml Sugarcane juice
2.5ml Milk thistle

Pour the ingredients over ice in a chunky highball glass and stir thoroughly. Garnish with a twist of orange.

Hakushu Shuubun
The next season starts on September 23, traditionally the autumnal equinox, which is called Shuubun in Japan. The Hakushu Shuubun reflects “that balance between celebration or banishing the blues”:

50ml Hakushu 12 Year Old Single Malt Whisky
20ml Yuzu juice
20ml Gomme syrup
1 Egg white

Shake the ingredients thoroughly and pour them into a cocktail goblet. Garnish with a lemon twist.

The cocktails have been designed to complement the subtle aromas and delicate flavours of Suntory’s Japanese whiskies. Alongside these cocktails, Suntory continues to promote its whiskies for serving neat, with ice or with water. It is also about to add some excitement to the portfolio with two limited-edition single malts aged in bourbon barrels. In September, it will release just 3,000 bottles of each expression of the Yamazaki and Hakushu in Europe. Both are non-aged – malts vatted for 10 to 15 years – and non-chill-filtered. They are bottled at 48.2 per cent ABV.

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