Post by Eric at Malty Moments in Japan
Editor's Note: Tasting rules have changed since we published this article. Check our update here.
The best place in Tokyo to try many single malts at the cheapest prices is Liquors Hasegawa located in the Underground shopping area just outside Yaesu exit of Tokyo station. Not only do they have a great selection of single malts but also miniatures and other premium spirits. The prices are good too. For example they were selling a bottle of Glenmorangie "Original" 10 for only 2,990 yen. That is cheaper than what I got for it at Rakuten Kawachiya.
The coolest thing about this place is that you can try nearly all they have on offer for a small tasting fee. For example Johnnie Walker Blue Label can be sampled for a low price of 200 yen for 10mls. I dare you to try and find a price like that in any bar. While browsing around a friendly customer allowed me to try some of the tasting samples he bought. I tasted an Ardbeg Renaissance and a few other premium single malts. I myself sampled Ardbeg 10 and Port Charlotte. The man kindly took a picture of me. The total price was 200 yen for the two samples.
The procedure for tasting is very simple. On the bottles that can be sampled is a white sticker with red kanji that says tasting fee with the price of the tasting fee. It looks like this 有料試飲 (yu-ryo shi-in). There is also a label that says not to open the bottle (it's very tempting to take a whiff but don't) but to take the bottle to the counter where the shop attendant will, after paying the small fee, get a tasting glass and make a small space for you to enjoy. Bring a bottle of water to water down the sample is necessary. This place is highly recommended to try premium single malts at a reasonable price for your whisky education.
It's a little hard to describe how to get there but the best way is the exit the underground Yaesu exit of Tokyo JR station and look for Yaesu Underground shopping center. Once you are there look for an information booth and ask how to get to LIQUORS HASEGAWA リカーズハセガワ 本店. Also be care to go to the main shop and not the west branch locate in the same shopping center. If you do manage to get to the west branch then ask them how to get to the main shop. The west branch specializes in wine and doesn't offer whisky tastings.
Opened 10:00am to 8:00pm daily.
I forgot the mention that it's not only Scotch whiskies that can be tasted but also Japanese whiskies and other spirits. The prices for the tasting depends on the price of the 700ml bottle. The below information was taken for their website.
Under 5000円 - 100円
Over 5000円 but under 10000円 - 150円
Over 10000円 but under 15000円 - 200円
Over 15000円 but under 20000円 - 250円
Over 20000円 but under 25000円 - 350円
Over 30000円 but under 35000円 - 500円
Over 35000円 but under 40000円 - 600円
Over 40000円 but under 50000円 - 700円
I also translated the tasting rules that can be found on the website here.
Liquors Hasegawa Tasting rules
1. Liquors Hasegawa is not a drinking establishment.
2. Tap water is available. You can bring your own bottled water.
3. You cannot taste 3 samples at once. 2 samples is okay.
4. Please wait patiently if the cashier is busy.
5. The tasting tables are located within the bottle aisles. Please be mindful of other customers.
6. Intoxicated customers may be refused service.
Map can be found here (flash)