J’s bar in Ikebukuro is a place to go diving deep into a fascinating malt whisky world.

After a meeting with a client on Friday evening, I was looking up a nice bar to refresh. I came to my mind one place I was recommended from the last bar I visited, and this is the bar I stop tonight, “J’s Bar,” just a few minutes’ walk from the northwest exit of Ikebukuro terminal.

Stepped on staircases leading the way on the upper floor of some old building, I was, as many times I have already experienced, amazed by the look of the interior, high counter bar with several stools, and all whiskies laid on the shelf behind. Master was a pretty handsome guy with a beard, and a girl in her 20s with tremendous knowledge about whisky, especially at her age. And, of course, the master was very intellectual, easy to talk and knew everything on his hands.

This bar is definitely for whisky lovers and novices or starters. I can also recommend coming in because the people here look very friendly. They know each other well, so you need to ask bartenders or see people you sit next to and make your choice. On this occasion, I also attended with exciting visitors, like a bartender working at a luxury hotel in Tokyo, a sales assistant at a well-known liquor shop, both young and pleasant, and a regularly coming business person. With the guy, it was very amusing to observe. Right after taking place next to me, the beard master came and started lining up “updated” bottles in front of him, one by one, with few remarks to explain when he placed a bottle. Both seemed to enjoy doing this ritual.

Anyway, chatting with people around, I have tried many shots from all the attractive bottles. They cost around 1,000yen each. They also offer a “set” discount when you select three bottles from specific areas (basically on the counter and first level of their shelf). You get discounted in total and becomes like 2,500yen. I did not follow up on the system and chose what I wanted, feeling still very reasonable. I tried BenRomach, old and newly labeled bottles, and one from Allt-A-Bhainne, with fascinating single cask vintage bottles from the Maltman, Grengrant 23yo, and Inchgower 18yo.

I am not so adept at commenting on tastes, but they are all great. Usually first time visit and with people, I cannot really remember how each tasted, still it was a fun to drink and share comments with someone while you drink, (sometime I fall into such situation that I sit alone and focus on tasting, and both are fine to me)

One good finding today was I met a good Japanese whisky, “single malt The First” is from the Mars Tsunuki, south Japan.

Tsunuki(津貫) The First

Some new makes of recent craft distillers here in Japan only give me an impression of being weak and pale. Still, this one, only aged three years, has a strong body and feeling of well-made scotch whisky reminding me of the mellowly and caramel kind of character of Taiwanese Kavalan. It may be due to faster maturation in casks from their location, where the yearly temperature is warmer than average in Japan. Unfortunately, the bottles of this batch were all sold out, so very lucky if you could still see some left when you visit here.

Last note, here, it is allowed to smoke. You may come alone or as a couple, maybe not suited for a group. It is a tiny bar. Here opens from 6:00 pm. It seems like a trendy bar in this neighborhood and is visited by many regular customers, so maybe it would be lucky if you could get a seat or try to come earlier.

Entrance image from google.map


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