The rabbit hole of drink is a wonderful hole to fall down into.
For me, I'd like to think it started with beer. Beer is awesome. Everyone knows that. Who even are you if you don't know that? But the truth is, for me, it started with wine.
Wine, so elusive and transcendent. The bilateral accord between its simplicity of production and complexity of form goes well beyond mere refreshment and off into a universe that's supernatural and vast. Wine is a mind-altering drug; it makes one write in ornate and cursive conceits often located well above one's station. See. Perhaps, beer is the drink you trip on to fall down the rabbit hole, and wine is the white rabbit? What, then, does that make whisky? Or saké?
"I don't know," says Yohei Namba, of Nagisa Japanese Restaurant.
"I fell down 12 years ago, and I'm still falling. It's amazing."
Whisky, whiskey, is one of those drinks that, like wine, seems to easily encapsulate exclusivity bordering on elitism. It resides in a sub-set of the drinks rabbit hole that can be difficult to fall into without feeling stupid because you think you don't know anything about it. Saké similarly; it exists even deeper down the trou du lapin, often at impenetrable depths due to its strange and exotic intricacies. The fact is and remains, however, that just as you don't need perfect pitch to love and listen to music, you don't need a perfect palate to love and taste beer or wine or whisky, whiskey, or saké. You only need to want to listen, to want to taste, and to want to learn.
"I think, being in Newcastle and having a Japanese restaurant, it is my duty to expose more people to Japanese whisky and saké," Namba explains.
"I like to help with that, by spreading the love of Japanese drinks culture."
Namba's drinks list at Nagisa - one of the best in Newcastle, I might add - features a remarkable range of Japanese crafted beverages, particularly of whisky and saké. He's created an approachable tasting flight featuring whisky that is designed to encourage possible novices and curious connoisseurs alike to fall down the infinite rabbit hole of drinks with him ... us.
"People can order an introductory whisky taster ($50) which includes five Japanese whiskies to taste, across a range of different styles that are nice and easy," Namba explains.
"I often start people off with something easy, like the Nikka Coffey Malt. It has a nice vanilla flavour that gives it a smooth and approachable character. I'll include a taste of the Yamazaki Single Malt, it has more serious flavours, but it is the best whisky in Japan."
Tripping into the drinks rabbit hole is easy. Falling down is much harder. Yohei Namba makes falling faster easier by sharing his wealth of knowledge and bottles of Japanese whisky and saké for novice Novocastrians who want to taste, experience and enjoy thinking while drinking without feeling stupid. Kanpai!
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