Thursday, September 27, 2007

This means war!

You know when you have become a true anorak when you find yourself chortling loudly over a design of a Taiwanese whisky bottle.

This morning I skipped over to for my daily Scottish to find a distinctly Nonjattaish Japanese character staring right back at me. To be more precise, the character for war! Ikusa!

Now, that is intriguing. Well, intriguing if you have become an incurable Japanese whisky dweeb anyway! Because that bottle is clearly a kakubin, Suntory's iconic turtle shell patterned blended whisky bottle:

The writing on the Ikusa label is in Japanese. The main Ikusa character could well be the same in Chinese, but the writing above it spelling out "Ikusa Whisky" is in hiragana, which is only used in Japanese. All of which sent me into a fit of dorky delight: a Taiwanese whisky called "War" which is apparently playing off the prestige of a famous Japanese brand which traces its history and iconic design back to the immediate pre-war period.

The bellicose name is, incidentally, not something any Japanese company would even think of calling its drink. Evidently, it is something some Taiwanese people, who were a colony of Japan's until 1945, find surprisingly congenial (maybe a bit like a British company selling "Blitz tea" or an Indian "Raj" gin or something?) Ignoring the war reference, there is a beautiful symmetry to all this. Japanese whisky makers were once inveterate and none too scrupulous copiers of other country's brands. What goes around, comes around, don't they say?

Anyway, I contacted Jeffrey Tan of the makers Universal Distiller Product Company. He explained: "We used to cooperate with OKINAWA small distilleries, so the tastes on based on Japanese like, so it show Japanese wards on label, as for the bottle, we tool it our own and based on KAKUBIN, but we adding a handle bar on it, so its totally different with the Suntory. Thanks. Is there anyone interesting in import it ? Feel free to let us know."

IkusaTaiwanese blended whisky
40 Per cent (abv)
More info


Serge said...

Oh my God, chris, you're more than just an anorak, you're the whole Swiss ski team... ;-)

Z. Huang said...

I found ikusa in a supermarket
near Taipei. It only costs 289
NT dollars(about 9 USD) here.

Nonjatta said...

Does it taste good?

z. Huang said...

I have no idea. I didn't buy it.

Frank Peng said...

I stumbled into this thread and found this 3-year old post quite interesting. However, I would like to share my thought on the naming of this Taiwanese whisky, as I myself is from Taiwan.

Personally, I do not think the label of the whisky “war” or “Ikusa” has anything related to Taiwan being a Japanese colony before. Many people here do not really bear any grudge against Japanese.

So what does it really mean? Personally I think its meaning is twofold: the whisky is strong and good. The first meaning is that it tastes strong, not some ordinary drinking. The second meaning is not that obvious on the surface. However, the word “war” pronounced in Mandarin, the official language in Taiwan, is a very similar to the word “good” in Taiwanese Hokkien, a dialect commonly used by Taiwanese people.

In a word, this label tries to appeal to Taiwanese people: this is the one for your taste. It probably has nothing to do with Taiwanese history, nor does it intend to challenge Japan.

Nonjatta said...

Thanks for the more informed view, Frank.

dancave said...

From the taiwaneese missus: we love the japanese and the word war have different meanings depends on the context. Frank Peng is pretty much right on the money.

also dancave said...

the pronouciation of "war" and "good" is very similar, its the slang for "mint!!" basically

Peter Dwyer said...

Just bought this whisky in Carrefour in Taipei, first taste was hmmm....not much like Scotch and not much like my favorite Canadian Whisky, "Crown Royal".
Has kind of a sweetness to it, but it does grow on you as I've had it two days in a row and enjoy it much more the second day, it was very inexpensive only about 200nt, cheaper than a cheap bottle of wine....