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Hidden Gems II – Campbelltoun Loch

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When I posted earlier I was going off of my memory and didn’t realize that I was spelling the name of the bar incorrectly. It is spelled: Campbelltoun Loch. I have made the correction to my previous post.

Earlier I mentioned the multitude of bars both on the street level and the many floors above, but I forgot to mention all of those bars that are down below street level. Campbelltoun Loch is one such subterranean bars and I would probably have walked right past it if I wasn’t specifically looking for it. Campbelltoun Loch is tended by the very knowledgable and friendly Noboyuki Nakamura. There is a plain white sign with black lettering on the street level with a small winding staircase that brings you down to the front door. Once you slide open the door you realize that space is definitely at a premium and most of that premium space is dedicated to whisky bottles instead of customer seating. There are only about 10 small stools and it is probably easier to wait outside to let people out before trying to get in – that is how narrow the seating is.

As soon as I walked in though I knew it was my kind of place. Low key, quiet and enough whisky on the shelf (and on the bar top) to keep you busy for hours if you tried to read all of the labels. Campbelltoun Loch has an always changing selection of about 250 bottles. What I found most impressive was their selection of malts from the 70’s and 80’s – it was like an antique whisky library.

With this type of selection, no menu and no prices listed I was worried about how much of a hit my wallet was going to be taking. But when would I get the chance to try distillery releases from 30 years ago? Luckily, the pricing wasn’t too bad and you could order half-pours. Because there are so many bottles available it is easier to ask for a particular distillery, flavor profile or region and Nakamura San will happily bring you a couple of bottles to choose from.

In February I tried four different malts: a distillery release from the now silent Dallas Dhu, an 80’s distillery release Springbank, an 80’s distillery release Mortlach and a fun ’78 Samaroli Sherried Talisker. It was a real treat to try the distillery releases and taste what whisky was like from a different era. It was like drinking liquid history.

I enjoyed Campbelltoun Loch so much that on my latest trip to Tokyo a couple of weeks ago I chose to forgo trying to discover a new bar and went back. As expected there were a lot of changes to the whiskies available. This time I tried 24 y/o Brora, ’68 Glendronach that was specially bottled for ANA airlines, 25 y/o OMC Talisker, ’79 single cask peated BenRiach, 80’s distillery release Lagavulin 12, Barman’s Collection Caol Ila 30 bottled by BBR specially for Campbelltoun Loch. It was another fun tasting adventure this trip, making it inevitable that I will be stopping for some drams here again on my next visit.

Campbelltoun Loch is open M – F 6pm – 4am, Sat – Sun 6pm – 11:30pm, located at 1-6-8 Yurakucho, Chiyoda-Ku. The nearest stations are Yurakucho and Hibiya (Exit A4).

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Japan’s Scotch Shop “Shizuka More” Islay Bottling

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Japan’s Scotch Shop carries a variety of Distillery as well as Independent Bottlings. They also carry an interesting series called the Shizuku Series. This series is further broken down the Shizuku More and Shizuku Flavor lines. The Shizuku More line consists of single cask expressions from four different regions (Islay, Speyside, Highland and Islands). We do have to play the guessing game with these expressions as the distilleries are not disclosed. The Shizuku Flavor line,as the same suggests, are expressions labeled by flavor profile (Floral, Honey and Smoky) rather than region. Tending to prefer Islay malts and limited on budget the decision was made to go with the single cask Islay bottling. Although it cannot confirmed – after some interrogation – the salesman hinted at this being from Lagavulin…

Shizuku More Islay 3,000円
58.4%ABV
200ml bottle

Color – straight copper. Big nose, smokey salty bright. A cloud of charged flavors. With an undertow of sugar. An initial warm muteness breaks through dust with a rush of spiced peat, heat, and doughy sugars with a very slowly settling wake of burnt something, caramelized sugar, ash, and salted fruit. An impressively dynamic whisky with bright, faceted aspects. The 58% ABV is well handled and the Islay flavors are frisky and on display. Suspiciously well balanced somewhere between the armchair-fireplace dram and a palate-revitalizing, certainly young, conversation piece. Yum. Nate

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