Bar review - The Bow Bar, Sapporo
Name: The Bow Bar Address: Floor 8, Hoshi Bld,7-5 Minami4 Nishi2, Chuo-ku, Sapporo (札幌市中央区南４条西２丁目７-５ ホシビル８Ｆ) Website: http://www.thebowbar-sapporo.com/
It is quite easy to find. Looking at the map below you can navigate from the Odori Park, which you see a corner of at the top of the map. The Odori Park is very hard to miss, and well worth seeing. You might even experience some Fast & Furious cars Sapporo-style there.
Take the main road south, past the subway stations until you reach Susukino Station, then head east. The bar is located on floor 8 of a small, blackish office building. The sign is not very big, so make sure you walk up to the entrance of the building, and check the floor plan.
Wow, where to begin. The Bow Bar in Sapporo is a very special kind of place. It's a bar where you feel instantly at home, and where you just know that you want to come back to visit again and again.
OK, let's start with the arrival. When you step out of the elevator the door to the bar is right there, just by the elevator. Once inside you are met with a classic, dark, wooden bar. The bar itself is quite long, with about 8-10 seats, and there are a couple of tables in the back of the room.
The owner and bar manager, Junya Honma, has specialized in Scotch single malt. He has mainly distillery bottlings, and most of them are relatively young - 15-20 YO or younger. But almost all of them are bottled in the 1960s, 1970s or 1980s! There is somewhere in the region of 400 to 500 single malts on the shelves.
It is quite an impressive collection, and unlike any we have seen before. Junya makes most of his purchases on annual travels to Italy, where he trades with a number of specialized stores and private collectors. He has made these trips for ten years now.
Visiting this bar is a perfect opportunity to explore how single malts tasted 'back in the day', when single malts were quite rare overall. It is just plan fun to taste young Ardbeg or Springbank bottled several decades ago. In most cases these relatively young whiskies appear a lot more mature and rich on both nose and palate than what the label specifies. Old bottle effect? Slight development in the bottle over all those years? Different approach to making whisky back then? Anyways, it is great fun to try these old, young whiskies!
Junya was born and raised in Sapporo, then at age 18 he moved to Tokyo and worked in bars there for about five years. Then he decided to go to Scotland, where he spent a total of 10 months. He was working at a bar, and spent all his money and spare time travelling around the country visiting as many distilleries as he possibly could. Then in December 1995 he established The Bow Bar in his hometown, Sapporo. In 2005 he moved the bar to the current location.
Back when he started, he would serve about 80 % cocktails and 20 % single malts. Today this is turned around completely, and whisky accounts for about 80 % of what he sells in the bar.
Junya does have a couple of other bottles in his bar as well. He has in excess of 250 different grappa and old armagnacs! If only we had time to try more...
This is a bar where you sit down, relax and spend hours exploring. We spent three long evenings in the bar, and we felt we had just started scratching the surface.
We will be back, Junya, that is a promise!
Sláinte! - Thomas