Kampai!’ says my effusive barman, as I lift the highball glass to my lips. I’m in a narrow, low-lit, eight-seater bar called Hanare, just a few minutes’ walk from Gion-Shijo station, in the heart of Kyoto’s entertainment district, and about to try my first taste of Japanese whisky.
It’s an apposite time to do so, as last November, the Japanese beat the Scots in the whisky stakes for the very first time. The Sherry Cask single malt 2013, produced in Suntory’s Yamazaki distillery, came top in the 2015 edition of Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible, winning World Whisky of the Year. And as this distillery is located close to the tourist and temple towns of Osaka and Kyoto, you can combine a visit to this sacred producer of spirits with a sophisticated swagger around these cities’ finest whisky bars.