November 9, 2017: My Top 10 Favorite Whiskeys!

In the three years that the Dark Matter Whisky Club was in operation, 2014-2017, I sampled a wide variety of whiskeys, over a hundred in all.  These were my favorites…


Appropriate, no?  Line Producer Norman Denver contributed this ironic Irish entry, a blend of single malt and single pot-stilled whiskeys, triple-distilled and non-peated.  My favorite Irish Whiskey.

Notes: Warm honey, fruit, vanilla and the long sweet finish of artistic anguish laced with leprechaun gold.


Another Norman Denver contribution, we enjoyed multiple bottles owing to the fact that it is, clearly, one of his favorites.  I can drink Lophgraig, which my former writing partner, Paul, likens to smoking a pack of cigarettes, but the peatiness here is present without being overpowering.

Notes: Peat, pineapple, oak, and a touch of that leather belt you took off to go through airport security and subsequently didn’t realize you’d left behind until you’d already boarded your flight.


The first of multiple Japanese whiskeys to this list, this one is my all-time favorite blended whisky.  Akemi uses the apothecary style bottle to store salt once I’m done.

Notes: Creamy banana, brown sugar, dark plums like the ones you take from your neighbor’s backyard when they’re away in Florida.


From Chicago’s first distillery since prohibition, this 100% oat whisky was a pleasant find while I was searching for its sister bourbon, a delicious 2014 Gold Medal Winner at the International Whisky Competition.

Notes: Silky, floral, oatmeal, maple syrup and cream.  Perfect for those mornings when you don’t have time to prepare a proper breakfast.


Another beautifully balanced Japanese blended whisky, this one was gifted to us by director Amanda Tapping and once we were done, I picked up a second bottle to add to our library.  Probably one of the most beautiful bottles out there.

Notes: Apricot, orange peels, chocolate, and sunshine.  But mostly sunshine.


Director Jason Priestley delivered a true beauty in this gorgeous triple-distilled whisky matured in three different casks: bourbon, Oloroso Sherry, and Pedro Ximenez Sherry.

Notes: Dark cherries and chocolate, toffee and toasted oak.  Like liquid black forest cake for adults.


Compliments of Jay Firestone after first season wrap.  A handful of us were in the office, enjoying this elegant whiskey when we were joined by about a dozen first-timers, eager to see what all the fuss was about.  We poured them each a tumbler of this luxurious slow-sipper – which they all downed in one shot.  Lesson learned. From that point on, we always had the backup Ardbeg on standby.

NOTES: Rich and complex, fruit and smoke, cinnamon and raisins, fairy dust and candied unicorn horns.


We went through multiple bottles of this Ivon Bartok favorite, with its deep golden hue and velvet rum undertones.  It’s like a Scottish angel and a Black Seas pirate had a baby, and bottled it.

Notes: Creamy vanilla, mangoes and toffee, rum and rich booty (in all senses of the word).


I fell in love with this bourbon at Martin Gero’s place that time he ordered the lobster truck for his birthday and I ended up eating a half dozen lobster rolls.   Remember?  Good times, good times.  The Jefferson’s Ocean, gifted to me by my buddy Jeff, is equally amazing.

Notes: Spices, honey, custard, and corn, with a hint of lush presidential pardons.

#1. YAMAZAKI – 18

My all-time favorite (should you be wondering what to get me for my birthday), it was $200 a bottle a few years ago, but today you’d be lucky to find it for double that price.  According to Akemi’s mother, its skyrocketing popularity is the result of it having been featured in a Japanese soap opera.  Noooo!  Why couldn’t it have been the bruichladdich???!!!

Notes: Dark fruit and spice and all the secrets of the universe.

November 13, 2013: Tokyo Day #8! A day packed full of jam! And whisky!


Akemi: When I was a kid, I had big eyes.  Like everyone in my family.

Me: Why?

Akemi: I’m not sure.  Maybe because we eat a lot of meat.

Well, just a little meat for me yesterday – but a lot of whisky.

The open kitchen concept at L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon

We joined Akemi’s family for lunch at one of my favorite restaurants in Tokyo, L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon, a place that offers terrific high-end value for your money.  If you’re looking to sample Michelin-starred cuisine without breaking the bank, this is where you should come.

Creamy pumpkin soup with ricotta cheese gnocci
Pan-fried duck liver and parmesan cheese risotto
Dark chocolate ganache served with cocoa sherbert and bitter biscuit powder.  Super rich and decadent!  You’ve been warned!

This was my third visit to L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon and I can honestly say that not only have I never had a bad meal here; I’ve never had a bad dish here.  That’s damn impressive.  So much so that we made dinner reservations for next week.

L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon:  6-10-1 Roppongi, Minato

We exited the restaurant and just happened to stumble upon (okay, I had this scoped out days in advance) the Roppongi Hills Whisky Festival showcasing a bunch of Japanese blended and single malts.

Hey, check it out!  The Whisky Festival has kicked off at Roppongi Hills.
The menu
It’s Whisky and Photobombing Chihuahua Day at Roppongi Hills!
We made two new friends – three if you count the dog – while sampling whisky.  Alas, we didn’t get their names.  Except for the dog.  His name was Coco.

I sampled the 18 year old Yamazaki (at one third the price of what it cost me for a shot in L.A.) and the 21 year Hibiki.  I’ll be coming back for the Hakushu and Kaku.

After the whisky-tasting, I was feeling nostalgic and melancholy – so I figured a trip to the Mori Art Museum to check out the Charles Schulz retrospective was just the thing.  We filed through the packed rooms and checked out Peanuts arts ranging from early sketch work through the various decades (Akemi: Snoopy went to war?  Me: Yeah.  He killed thirty nazis!).


Akemi: “Charlie has a humungous face.  How does he support his body?”



1Ah, good times.  My sister was a huge Snoopy fan – and still has a soft spot for the lovable beagle.  Maybe I’ll bring her back something nice from the gift shop for minding my dogs while we’re away in Tokyo.

Mori Art Museum:  6-10-1 Roppongi, Minato

While in town, I’m thinking of checking out a Japanese movie:

Didn’t love the manga, but the movie looks suitably creepy.  If I have time, I may check it out.

We returned to the hotel to gather our strength for the night ahead.  A little downtime, a little snack:

The choux creme from Creme de la Creme at Roppongi Hills.

And we were ready to head out once again:

One outfit change later and Akemi was ready to go.

We had dinner reservations at Fook Lam Moon, a Chinese restaurant with branches in Hong Kong, Ginza, and Marunouchi.  Akemi and I arrived early so we killed some time…

Akemi and I killed time by taking a ride on the Disney balloon.
Tokyo in Christmas mode.
Interesting art work
With the release of the new Thor movie, it’s all about the Marvel heroes in Marunouchi.

We dined with Akemi’s family  – mom, dad, brother, sister, and new brother-in-law – and had another great meal.

The Aota clan
The Aota clan

A couple of the highlights:

Crab meat and bright orange guts


Pictured above: the siu long bao.

The waiters prepare the Peking Duck: carving the meat and trimming the fat.

Fook Lam Moon: 36/F Marunouchi Building, 2-4-1 Marunouchi, Chiyoda-ku,

Despite all we had accomplished on the day, it was still early so we had one more stop to make before turning in for the night.  We headed to Ginza and my home away from home: Star Bar.  It was great to see the old gang!

Master Kishi-san
It’s been a year since my last visit but I didn’t even need to order.  I sat down and, a couple of minutes later, this was presented to me.  Perfect.

Yamazaki-san does his thing:

Rounding out the crew is Yoshida-san who recommended a terrific bourbon: Rowan's Creek.
Rounding out the crew is Yoshida-san who recommended a terrific bourbon: Rowan’s Creek.

Star Bar: Sankosha Building B1F, 1-5-13 Ginza, Tokyo

Whew.  What a day!