On a recent trip to Japan I had the privilege to visit two exceptional bars in the Yokohama region, both very different, but both equally dedicate to offering an eclectic selection of drams to mostly locals, but the odd (international) traveler as well.
BAR Thirta, is a venture run by Hiroshi Okawa who has set up the bar on the first floor of a shopping/dining district close to Yokohama train station.
As so often the case with Japanese bars, it is a small place that is intimately connected to the person running it. The atmosphere is laid back and some Whisky-themed artifacts (such as a collection of Gordon & MacPhail and Glenfarclas miniatures) grace the walls.
Hiroshi is a great host and he knows his stuff. More so, he is highly personable and curious about his customer’ tastes so he can suggest new things to try. So much so that he was recently selected as one of only a handful number of bar-tenders by the bottlers 'Art Taiwan' jointly with ‘The Whisky Agency’ to select a bottle for their 'Bar World Tour' series. His face covers the back-label of the bottle - a 2007 Islay dram.
Hiroshi seemed excited I asked him about the series and he enjoyed lining up for me to try. The Bar Thirta doesn’t seem to push for quantity of drams in stock, but rather an eclectic selection of diverse and interesting tipples. All drams are very reasonably priced and Hiroshi had some very rare Japanese (Chichibu) bottlings to offer as well. Oh, and I should probably mention that – to round things off – Hiroshi pulled out a magic bottle of a very rare dram from a legendary (now closed Japanese producer) - to offer me a shot on the house. I was in true Whisky heaven!