"It's 1pm Honey" said my wife about five minutes ago, as she typed, hard at work.
"I know," I said, thrilled with my new 'experiment', which I now post for y(our) pleasure.
I was tasting whiskey. But it's more complicated than that, so I'll explain.
While living in Shanghai, myself and a few old friends used to congregate at a place called Constellation Bar. I'd tell you that we went there before it was popular, before it filled with many people we knew and knew we didn't want to see there, that it was our little secret (well, ours and many, many Japanese people) but all that doesn't matter now. Constellation Bar's little blacklit room, with its library of Scotch Whisky, its considerable Bourbon selection, its odd rye and curious rum and its very good, classic cocktails, is now PACKED with people. They even opened a new, glitzier branch. Most of those whiskies in the good old days came by way of one sturdy Japanese suitcase, due to import limitations in China.
Though I am an Islay malt fan, as that combination of salt and sea and smoke is entirely seductive to my tastebuds and wallet, after one or two I'd turn to an old favorite at Constellation. It was a bourbon, and one I found by a long and fairly expensive process of elimination. It was called I.W. Harper, and the swift but silent bartender would pour a careful measure over a baseball-sized orb of ice. And there was something about that drink that was really, truly special.
For the past several years I've looked for it in the US, in liquor stores, to no avail. And then yesterday, after a nightmarish 40 hour jaunt back to Bangkok that included an unplanned evening spent at a Narita Radisson (with a NASCAR-themed karaoke sports bar!) I saw it, shining, from across the carpeted hallway.
There they were, a shimmering row of I.W. Harper bottles, diamond-cut just like I remembered them, with complex warmth just waiting inside. It turns out that all I.W. Harper, which is now owned by Diageo, gets shipped to Japan. Every single drop of the stuff. I just cracked the bottle, and poured a little over ice.It is just as I remember it: slightly sweet, with hints of caramel and spun candy, a whiff of vanilla, and a suggestion of cedar. It is my favorite Bourbon, and it will sit prettily alongide my staid single malts, like a Yankee in evening wear. My two new bottles were (almost) worth the trouble of a two-day detour back to Bangkok.
(If you find yourself in Narita, a bottle of IW Harper is roughly $36 at the duty free. A bargain for a delicious 12-year-old Bourbon, when you consider that Jack Daniels is selling for nearly the same price. And it sucks.)