Bar Curio, first specialist Japanese whisky bar outside of Japan
It has slowly dawned on me in recent weeks that Paris is, without doubt, become the most exciting city for Japanese whisky outside of Japan itself.
Last month, Nonjatta carried an item about a temporary store devoted entirely to the Japanese good stuff opened by La Maison du Whisky at 6 Carrefour de L' Odéon in the French capital.The response was so enthusiastic that the store stayed open until January 23, a week later than originally planned (update: according to Kenneth Maxwell, author of the excellent WSJ article last week, they are keeping a small display of Japanese whisky in the store, although the focus has now turned to other drinks). People were traveling from outside France to get their Japanese whisky fix.
But that is not the half of Paris's burgeoning Japanese whisky obsession.. Of course, Paris has La Maison du Whisky at 20 la rue d'Anjou, the official distributor of Nikka whisky in Europe and probably the leading Japanese whisky retailer outside of Japan, but it also has the only bar outside of Japan endorsed by Nikka whisky: Le Nikka Bar du Curio Parlor, in the cellar of the Curio Parlor cocktail club (www.curioparlor.com). I have never been but, with thirty odd Nikka whiskies in stock, and monthly "Nikka'fterwork" tasting events, offering unique opportunities to try some of the very rarest Japanese whiskies, I will definitely be visiting if I ever do find myself in France. The bar, at 16 rue des Bernardins (tel. 01 44 07 12 47), is open 6pm-2am, Monday to Thursday and until 5 am at the weekend.
Last night (28.1.10), for instance, lucky drinkers at a 10 Euro-a-ticket "Nikka'fterwork" tasting (see the bar's facebook page for information on these events) had a chance to taste the very rare Single Malt Miyagikyo 1989. Only 36 bottles for Europe!
La Maison has a big part to play in the Curio. One of the owners of the bar, Romée de Goriainoff traveled to Japan in the spring of 2008 on a trip organised by the distributor. On the first night of the trip, he sampled Nikka's phenomenal Taketsuru 35-year-old with Nikka top brass at the Nikka Blender's Bar in Tokyo (a tasting which I, rather embarrassingly and unknowingly, gatecrashed, but that is another story). On the second day, he was in the Nikka Bar in Sapporo having visited the beautiful Yoichi distillery. De Goriainoff fell in love with Japanese whisky and the quality of the country's products so impressed his partners, Olivier Bon and Pierre-Charles Gros, that they decided to open their open Japanese whisky bar at the Curio Parlor.
Over the coming months I will be trying to keep Nonjatta readers updated with the latest developments in Paris, as many as the many other locations across the world where interest is currently bubbling over (send in any news items, please!). The Japanese whisky world becomes more genuinely global by the month.
Whisky tasting at Bar Curio, Paris
Photos provided by Nicolas at La Maison.