Friday, November 30, 2018

Kampai! The Akashi Japanese Whisky Dinner Pairing at Cafe Ysabel

The only whisky in the world produced by a sake master or "Toji" sets the tone for another memorable dining experience at Cafe Ysabel...

Masterfully created by one of Japan's oldest distilleries, Akashi Japanese Whisky reveals yet another facet in Japan's highly regarded whisky tradition. Known for its unique distinction as the only whisky in the world distilled by an acclaimed sake master, Akashi Japanese Whisky was only recently shared with the rest of the world after being exclusively reserved for local consumption since it was established back in 1888. And there's just no better way to get acquainted with this elegant whisky than with a lavish dinner pairing prepared by Chef Gene Gonzalez of Cafe Ysabel. After a memorable wine pairing dinner with traditional Filipino cuisine at Cafe Ysabel (more on my earlier post, Wine Not? Rediscover Comforting Local Flavors with Chef Gene Gonzalez Paired with Fine Wine at Cafe Ysabel), Chef Gene Gonzalez creates another epic feast paired with one of Japan's rarest whiskies...

The distinct round apothecary-shaped bottles sets this rare Japanese whisky apart from the rest in all its different whisky expressions and sizes. Founded more than 130 years ago in the city of Akashi, Eigashima Shuzo Ltd. was the very first distillery to obtain a license for producing spirits in 1919 becoming the very first whisky brand in Japan. Located in the Hyogo Prefecture by the Seto Inland Sea, Akashi Japanese Whisky is naturally infused with the subtle yet distinct coastal notes during the maturation process. Mainly produced and reserved for the domestic market, the construction of the new White Oak Distillery in 1984 presented opportunities in global distribution slowly unveiling one of Japan's oldest and rarest whiskies.

Eigashima Shuzo Ltd. produces a wide range of blended and single malt whiskies as well as its signature "Toji" created by their sake master and plum whisky. The art of distilling whisky is taken to a higher level with that unmistakable Japanese passion for perfection throughout the entire line of fine whisky and spirits.

And that evening, one of the world's rarest and oldest Japanese whiskies meets its match with one of the country's culinary icons. Chef Gene Gonzalez of Cafe Ysabel prepared a curated menu paired with specific Akashi Japanese Whisky labels allowing guests to the exclusive dinner pairing a feast to complement one of the world's best. 

A refreshing and soothingly sweet and mildly tart cocktail blended with Akashi Shin Whisky Umeshu, a special whisky infused with sweet Japanese plums and bitter, sweet and sour champoy opens up the palate before the much anticipated dinner...

...paired with an equally tasty and savory starter. The Akashi Shin Whisky Umeshu is the perfect way to get acquainted with the oldest Japanese distillery, with the sweetness of the plums tempered by the deep, bold and mildly smoky notes of the whisky. Velvety smooth, easy and light on the palate, the Akashi Shin Whisky Umeshu is prepared like the traditional Japanese plum wine with its pronounced and upfront sweetness rounded out by the robust notes of whisky.   

A shot of Akashi Red Blended Whisky is then served with Cafe Ysabel's signature Sopa Ysabel En Croute, a rich and hearty seafood soup topped with a pastry crust. A light tap on the crust reveals the steaming hot and creamy soup with succulent seafood releasing a fragrant aroma.

The Akashi Red Blended Whisky delivers sharp and bold flavors with that subtle and elegant burn and bite at the back your throat while adding a layer of sweetness that just brings out the fresh and creamy notes of the Sopa Ysabel En Croute and the seafood for an elegant pairing.

The Akashi White Oak Blended Whisky offers deeper, more rounder flavors with a smoother finish, an elegant and graceful blended whisky that typifies the finest of Japanese whisky traditions.

The refined Akashi White Oak Blended Whisky is paired with a duo of Tuna & Salmon Tatakis with Grape's Olive Compote, delivering fresh and clean briny notes.

The flavors are delightfully subtle, perfectly complementing the elegant finish of the Akashi White Oak Blended Whisky for another perfect pairing.

A refreshing sorbet is served before the next round of dishes to cleanse the palate... the Akashi Blue Blended Whisky is served next. The intricate process behind each bottle of Akashi Blue Blended Whisky include maturation in American Oak Shochu casks for approximately two years followed by aging in ex-bourbon casks before finishing in ex-sherry casks for a year. Every step in the maturation process infuses the blend with layers of rich flavors, from the American Oak to the bourbon and sherry casks. And the result is a smooth whisky blend with hints of fruit, vanilla, a subtle and mild whisper of spice finished by deep earthy notes of oak and smoky peat. The multi-layered dimensions of different flavors are seamlessly woven in each and every sip...  

...pairing well with the savory Grilled Quail Marinated in Sweet Wood Spices with Roasted Onion Soubise, Sauteed Spinach and Squash Seeds. The richness of the marinated grilled quail coats the palate followed by equally rich smoky hints that's accentuated even more with a sip of Akashi Blue Blended Whisky.  

The Akashi "Toji" Japanese Whisky is the elegant expression of the sake master's art. The aroma of sweet honey, vanilla, spicy peppers and smoky peat is the initial trigger that's followed by hints of honey, chocolate, oak, vanilla and dried fruits on the palate before finishing with rounded notes of cinnamon. It's whisky that should be enjoyed neat, the way it should be. The emerging popularity of whisky allows us to experience a wide range of expressions from around the world, and it's quite interesting to experience a sake master's unique take on whisky for a new and different perspective. And you will not be disappointed.

The full-bodied notes of the Akashi "Toji" Japanese Whisky is paired with the Argentine Entrana Steak with Brown Butter Wild Mushroom and Creamy Peppercorn Demiglace, a sumptuous main dish. The savory and beefy richness of the steak is enhanced by the deep full-bodied notes of the Akashi "Toji" Japanese Whisky with each bite and sip complementing the other.

But it gets better. That evening, the Akashi "Toji" Single Malt Bourbon Cask was served. This is, perhaps, the ultimate expression of the sake master's art. A single cask whisky matured in American Oak Shochu cask and finished in a bourbon barrel, the Akashi "Toji" Single Malt Bourbon Cask is an extremely limited release from Eigashima Shuzo Ltd. with only 240 bottles ever produced. You read that right. Just 240 bottles in the whole world. And one of them was served that evening at Cafe Ysabel.

Each bottle is individually numbered for authenticity, as we enjoyed bottle number 98 to cap a memorable Japanese Whisky Dinner Pairing at Cafe Ysabel. The American Oak and bourbon casks add deep layers of sweet and fragrant vanilla with hints of licorice followed by a smooth and elegant smoky finish. The very best of Japanese Whisky tradition and heritage enjoyed in a gentle sip. That calls for another round...

Our Japanese Whisky dinner pairing ends with Cafe Ysabel's signature Strawberry Shortcake served with Peach Ice Cream paired with a shot of Akashi Shin Whisky Umeshu. The decadent Strawberry Shortcake, with its vibrant sweet and tart notes, are perfectly finished by the sweet plum hints of the Akashi Shin Whisky Umeshu. The emerging popularity of whisky is no longer just a trend, it's here to stay. Embark on your own personal journey of fine whisky appreciation and momentarily shift your gaze from the Gaelic isles to look east for a change...with Akashi Japanese Whisky.

For more on Akashi Japanese Whisky, check out their FB Page at

Cafe Ysabel is located at 175 M. Paterno, San Juan, Metro Manila or call 725-5089 for inquiries and reservations.

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