Hiryasu Kayama is a bartender come modern-day alchemist who owns Tokyo’s Bar Benfiddich. We were lucky enough to be introduced by him to the Japanese flavour pairing concept of Kochu Chomi, as the Nikka Whiskey masterclass at Maybe Sammy during Bar Week 2019.
We caught up with Hiro just before the event, to chat about his world-renowned Bar and partnership with Nikka Whisky.
Hiro showcased Nikka Whisky’s different bottlings through a flavour pairing concept called Kochu Chomi, in which the individual whiskys are uniquely paired with small, flavour-packed morsels of food. What is unique is the way the flavours of the food and whisky combine in the mouth as they are chewed, as opposed to beforehand as the different elements of a cocktail would be. Hiroyasu described the result as creating a ‘marbling’ effect in the mouth, where a cocktail of sorts is then enjoyed.
The food dishes we were served, that were hand-chosen by Hiroyasu himself, included one of sage leaf, pink peppercorn and honey, and one which was a combination of banana, dark chocolate and dried fig.
The bite-sized dish of food is first placed in the mouth and chewed for 4-8 seconds, to slightly combine the flavours of the 3 different elements.
The whisky is then added, by drinking without swallowing, before it is combined with the food through a few more seconds of chewing.
Once the ‘marble’ effect is achieved, the mouthful is swallowed and, if the first steps are followed correctly, a delightful aftertaste lingers.
After our chat to Hiro in this week’s podcast, we were able to learn more about his collaboration with Nikka from Naoki Tomoyoshi, Asahi’s International Business Department Representative. Naoki has known Hiro for over 15 years and the partnership has been many years in the making.
“Starting a couple of years ago, we were picking his brain to find new ways to highlight the characteristics of each and every whisky that we have,” Naoki explains.
Nikka ultimately wanted to be able to make their whiskys shine without being altered or diluted too much, as they might be in a cocktail. Kochu Chomi does all that and more.
Naoki believes that “something is changing in the world” of whisky, and he explains why.