Whisky conjures up a bunch of feelings for me: First, I cringe a little (I'm more of a vodka-cranberry-type girl – I know, falling into a stereotype). Next, I think of either Tennessee, Kentucky, or Scotland, where whisky is best-known in my books. I definitely don't think about Japan. But then again, maybe I should.
According to Whisky Magazine's World Whiskies Awards, Japan's first distillery is home to the winner of the best single malt whisky - two years running now. If you think this is blasphemy, Suntory Whisky's Yamazaki might have an unfair advantage (but we doubt it). According to their website, the distillery is located on the edge of the Kyoto region and is surrounded by three diverging rivers creating "damp conditions ideal for ageing whisky" in its casks.
If you're in the area, take a free tour of their distillery (tours are in Japanese but audio guides are available in English) where you'll learn all about the whisky production process and enjoy a tasting of their 10 and 12-year-old Yamazakis (the 25-year-old one won the best whisky spot in 2012).
Later on, visit Kiyomizu-dera, a historic temple that was established in 778 (starting at 300 yen or around $3/person). From the temple's Kiyomizu Stage, visitors have stellar views of the city of Kyoto. In English, the temple's name actually means the temple of clear water, pertaining to the Otowa Waterfall which runs through the temple's foundation. Visitors can drink its sacred water, which is believed to have healing powers.
For a completely different experience, take to the streets for a geisha walk, led by renowned photographer, Peter Macintosh. He'll tell you about the rich history of Kyoto's geisha districts and teach you about taking pictures of the unique culture in a respectful way (3,000 yen or around $32/person). The tour is 90 minutes and you'll explore hidden alleyways, geisha schools, and traditional artisan shops.
Where's your favorite single malt from?
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