Japan Eats

Boozehound: Suntory’s Yamazaki 1984 Wins Int’l Whiskey Prize

It was recently reported that Japanese beverage giant, Suntory, brought home top prize at the recent International Spirits Challenge held in London, England.

Entered in the ‘Whiskies – Other’ category, Suntory’s Single Malt Yamazaki 1984 won one of several gold medals awarded to whiskey distillers from around the world. Later on, in a second round of blind tasting by several international judges, Yamazaki 1984 was awarded top prize in the category.

While this category does not include Scotch, which has a category of its own, Yamazaki 1984 beat out major competition from several Irish labels (Jameson, Bushmills, etc.) in taking the trophy.

Suntory was then awarded “Distiller of the Year” honors for its contributions to the global spirits industry. And on top of that, Yamazaki 1984 came away with the “Supreme Champion Spirit” award. Both honors are a first for a Japanese distiller and product, respectively.

Yamazaki 1984 sells for nearly 100,000 yen per bottle (700ml) in Japan, and Suntory actually had several other entries in the same category that were also assigned gold medals by the auditors.

Asahi also managed to score two gold medals for Japan in the same category with its “Taketsuru 21 y.o.” and “Yoichi 15 y.o.” labels.

Recipe: Fresh Strawberries & Japanese Whiskey Sabayon

Rachael White explains how to prepare this delicious seasonal dessert.

As an expat in Tokyo, finding recipes that make one feel “at home” can be challenging. Many recipes westerners are familiar with require the use of an oven (not a common appliance in most Japanese kitchens). This recipe for fresh strawberries with whiskey sabayon fits the bill for a dessert that is: 1) simple to make with basic ingredients that can be found in Japanese grocery stores and 2) does not require an oven.

Strawberries & Whiskey Sabayon

Strawberries & Whiskey Sabayon: All of the ingredients are commonly found on Japanese grocery store shelves. Photograph: Rachael White

If you have a stove, a whisk, and a little time, you are more than equipped to make this impressive French dessert with a little Japanese flair. Sabayon, or zabaglione in Italian, is a southern French dessert made with egg yolks, sugar, and wine. The ingredients are whipped like crazy to form a light, foamy, creamy topping for fruit, cake, etc. In this case, Japanese whiskey and a touch of vanilla extract replace the wine. Sake would be an excellent substitute as well.

This time of year is especially good for strawberries in Japan. Although they can be found year round in some grocery stores in Tokyo, spring time seems to be when these ruby-red jewels are perfectly sweet and delicious. If they are purchased outside of the season, the texture tends to be hard and the inside is white and nearly tasteless. So, carpe diem and seize the strawberries, friends!

Ingredients (Makes 4-6 servings)

  • 8 egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup Japanese Whiskey
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2 pints strawberries, hulled and quartered

Method

Combine the whiskey, vanilla and sugar in a bowl. Whisk to combine. Put the egg yolks in a medium glass or aluminum bowl. Add the whiskey mixture to the egg yolks and whisk lightly until the egg yolks are just broken. Place the bowl over a double boiler over medium heat. *Note: If you do not have a double boiler it is OK! Just find a heatproof bowl that will fit in the top of a small/medium saucepan.

Fresh Strawberries & Sabayon

The most famous Japanese strawberries come from Tochigi and Fukuoka prefectures. Photo: Rachael White

Fill the saucepan/double boiler with about 2 inches/5 centimeters of water. (Make sure the bottom of the bowl is at least an inch away from the surface of the water. If it touches the water, the eggs will scramble.) Whisk constantly for 10-12 minutes until the egg mixture has almost doubled in volume and is light and foamy. The color should change from egg yolk yellow to a light, creamy, pale yellow color. Remove from the heat and the double boiler.

Divide the strawberries into 4 dessert bowls. Spoon the sabayon over the strawberries and garnish with mint leaves.