Thursday, January 30, 2014


Neighborhood: Roppongi
Address: Main Stage Roppongi Building B1F, 3-9-11 Roppongi, Minato-ku, Tokyo
六本木ビル B1F 東京都港区六本木3-9-11
Capacity: 40+
Seating Charge: JPY 1000
Bourbon Selection: Good
English Menu: No

Cask is a bourbon and Scotch bar with a small but curated selection of bourbon, including many antique bottles.

Cask is located in the basement of the Main Stage Roppongi Building down the hill from Roppongi Crossing toward Akasaka. Even though the website states that it closed as of June 2013, it is still very much open, but due to the change of name from "Cask" to "Cask Strength" and a modification of the logo it seems to have undergone a change in management. I will refer to it as "Cask," for the remainder of this post.  It has a good selection of bourbon and a great selection of Scotch. In the case of bourbon, their real strength is found in their selection of antique bourbons.

The layout of the bar is simple. A long bar that will seat about 15 people extends along one side of the room with the whisky stacked to the ceiling behind it. There are a few private rooms for larger parties. A staff member will take your coat as you take your seat.

As I mentioned, Scotch is this bar's real strength. About 1/8 of the space behind the bar was devoted to bourbon, while the remainder is overtaken by towers of Scotch. On each shelf, the bottles are stacked three deep - which leads to the real problem with this bar.

Cask doesn't maintain a menu or any sort of comprehensive list of all the whisky that is available. This wouldn't be a problem except that only the bottles on the front row (approx. 1/3 of the inventory) is visible. For the remainder, you have to ask the bartender and this conversation plays out like a game of Go Fish.  Nevertheless, I spied a few rarer modern bourbons: Eagle Rare 17 and Elijah Craig 20. Pappy and other Buffalo Trace Antiques were unaccounted for.

In the end, the best thing to do is ask the bartender for his recommendation. I told the bartender that I tend to like higher proof aged bourbons and he suggested Old Ezra 101 15, Wild Turkey 12 (Limited Edition) and Elijiah Criag 18. Both the Old Ezra 15 and the Wild Turkey 12 Gold Label were excellent. The Gold Label was produced in the late 80s and early 90s and is considered among the best Wild Turkey bottlings.

Once I had picked my poison, the other short coming of this bar became manifest - the glassware. Now, I am rather finicky when it comes to glassware, but if you order your whiskey straight, it comes in a shot glass. I think you will agree that this is ludicrous. Whisky that is ordered on the rocks, on the other hand, comes in a nice tumbler with a spherical ball of ice. This almost makes ordering your drink on the rocks worth it, notwithstanding the fact that it would ruin the flavor.

I have mentioned that Cask's strength is antique bourbon and they do have a good collection. I saw Early Times, Very Very Old Fitzgerald and Old Crow, all from the 50s or 60s. There were likely even more bottles in the second or third row, but all of these were too rich for my blood at JPY 6,000 per shot.

That brings me to another point. A "shot" at Cask is less than 30mL. The bartender will very carefully measure out each drink in a jigger so that it is slightly less than 30mL.

Sitting along the front of the bar is the real pièce de résistance: Black Bowmore, White Bowmore, Gold Bowmore and a bottle of Wm. J. Friday 1870 Brand pre-prohibition rye. As my taste tend heavily toward American whisky, I gave the Wm. J. Friday a shot.

The Wm. J. Friday Rye was made at a distillery bearing the same name sometime between when the distillery opened in 1879 and when it closed in 1918. The bottle didn't state which year it was from (or carry any age statement at all) and there were no markings on the bottom of the bottle.

The Wm. J. Friday was very good. The color was very dark and it had great brown sugar and banana notes. There was a maturity and character to it that I have not seen in contemporary ryes.

All in all, Cask is a great place for Scotch and a decent place for bourbon - very good if you are looking for antique bourbons, but with prices that are a little higher than similar bars.

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