Japanese cuisine has been gaining momentum in the UK since the 1980s, but it looks like 2016 will be when it breaks through into the mainstream and turns into one of the hottest trends of the decade. Throughout February and March, Selfridges is hosting a series of dining experiences celebrating everything great about Japan’s food and drink. On 23 February, the Oxford Street branch will be serving up dishes from Japanese restaurant Tonkotsu and pairing them with Nikka whiskies (buy tickets here). General manager and avid Japanese whisky fan David Wrigley is the man responsible for matching the two together – we had a chat with him to find out how it matches up to Scotch.
‘Japanese whisky will always be Scotch’s little brother,’ he says. ‘Having spent many years trying to be just like him, he is now branching out in many weird and wild directions to exert his individuality. The godfather of Japanese whisky, Masetaka Taketsuru, who was the master distiller at Suntory’s Yamazaki distillery and founder of Nikka, trained in Scotland for many years before returning home with his Scottish bride. He left Suntory with the intention of aping Scotch even more closely at his Yoichi distillery in the far north of Japan.’
Despite Masetaka’s original aim to recreate Scotch as closely as possible on his home turf, the expressions which started to come out of Japan have slightly different (albeit incredibly subtle) differences. ‘Japanese whisky tends to have fewer hard edges,’ explains David. ‘Harmony is important, so they tend to be more balanced and well rounded. Japan produces peated whisky but nothing as smoky and medicinal as Laphroaig, and the distillers like a sherry cask but nothing competes with the full oloroso experience of Glen Dronach. On the whole however, most people would struggle to pick out a Japanese whisky from a line-up of Scotches.’