If not for a long-lost article extolling the virtues of Wild Turkey in the late 1980s, Yu Sumiyoshi might never have discovered whiskey. But a well-placed feature caught the 19-year-old Yu's attention and, after receiving his monthly salary, he headed to the city of Fukuoka's notorious Oyafukodori to find a bar that would serve him the mysterious liquor.

"That first experience was terrible," Yu recalls as he carefully attaches a pair of lapel pins to his white bar jacket. "Wild Turkey was described as this 'man's whiskey' to be drunk neat. That's what I ordered and when I had it in my hand I realized I didn't know how to drink it. So I drank it in one."

A slight grimace flashes across his face before he continues. "It was a pretty high-end bar and it had this respectful, quiet atmosphere. I was completely taken aback by the strength of the drink and ended up spraying it out of my mouth across the bar. When I saw everyone looking at me, I grabbed the check and ran."