Tasting flights aren’t only for beer anymore
When Morimoto Asia launched its whiskey flight a year ago, it had no idea how popular it would be. So popular, in fact, that now the Disney World restaurant offers four whisky flights, as well as two sake flights.
The flights offer Asian whiskies only “to open up customers’ palates and experiences,” says bar manager Eric Bandauski. “People have had access to most of the American whiskies and Scotches. The Japanese whisky supply is so tight that you just don’t see them out there. And to ask customers to commit to just one when they come here, is hard.”
But Morimoto does have access to them and features 25 on its menu, many of them rare, alongside more traditional American and Scottish whiskies.
The restaurant offers them on their own, or in one of the four flights, three of which focus on specific distilleries. One features Suntory, another Kavalan, and the third Nikka. The fourth flight, called Isan, features three whiskies—one each from the Mars, Akashi and Ichiro micro-distilleries. The Suntory flight is the best seller.
Bandauski opted to have three flights, each focusing on a specific distillery, “because there are such minute differences in these whiskies and customers can see the subtle differences between them if they’re tasted together. I think it’s more interesting to see the differences coming out of the same distillery.”
The flights are served with three 1.5-oz. pours plus a glass of spring water, which can be a palate cleanser or to mix with the whisky.
They are most frequently requested for dessert, though some customers drink them throughout their dinner. “Sometimes people share a flight and sometimes each person at a table buys a flight, then they all share,” Bandauski says. “You can really get a classroom’s worth of information with a table with friends.”
And that education is very important to him, so he sends out information cards with all flights, containing a description “that dives into the whisky itself and tells people what to expect, what to look for,” he says. Servers and Bandauski himself also provide additional information tableside, when requested.
When educating clientele on Asian whiskies, they often draw comparisons with American and Scottish products “so we can form associations and expand their palates,” he says.
Each flight costs $44. Individual Asian whiskies cost anywhere from $18 to $125 per glass. “We want to get people exposed to it and when they are, they’re more likely to return and buy the glass of it or have another flight.”
The two sake flights at Morimoto also do well, and outsell the whisky flights. On a typical night the bar sells 20 to 30 of them; with whisky a typical night sees around 8 flight sales, but that number can increase to 20 on a busy night.
One sake flight, the Morimoto Sake Flight, comes with four sakes—Morimoto Junmai, Morimoto Daigingo, Morimoto Gingo, and Morimoto Five Year Koshu Sake. The other offers three aged sakes (5-year, 10-year and 30-year). The former costs $35 and the latter $75.
“Customers tend to have these throughout their meal, especially at the sushi bar,” Bandauski explains. “The aged sake flight, people are having throughout the meal and you tend to see people savor it—they are very rich and unique, and the 30-year one is like a sherry or a port, so they’ll have the lighter, younger one with the meal and save the older ones for after.”