Japanese whiskey, a victim of its own success
Photo: Bill Murray in Lost in Translation
Victim of its own success, whisky in Japan is sold out but also gains fame. Here are some of the reasons why.
A piece of history of Japanese whisky in the cinema
When Bill Murray appears in the film “Lost In Translation” tasting Suntory whisky, the Japanese single malt producers are at their worst. Nothing is exported and sales are down. By the year 2000, consumption is 150,000 liters of whisky per year, a far cry from the peak in 1983. A bottle of Hibiki 17 years old cost 73 euros…
End of 2020 – Suntory can’t keep up with demand
Towards the end of 2020, the same bottle of Hibiki 17 now costs 475 euros in Tokyo (if you get the bottle). Specialized bars are then out of stock since Suntory, overwhelmed by demand, discontinues the sale of its flagship alcohol to bring in younger blends.
The rewards + Jim Murray effect
Ten years served Japanese whiskey to orchestrate a sensational debut on the world scene. According to Liam McNulty, an expert based in Tokyo, this is due to the various rewards given to Japanese whisky. But also to Jim Murray, the author of the Whisky Bible who gave the title of best whisky of the year to a single malt from Yamazaki.
Prices are inflated
And you better not… The prices of this bottle of Yamazaki were inflated at exorbitant prices and today at an average price of 6,993 euros. Fans in Europe and the United States succumb to the taste of Japanese whiskey.
Victim of its success
Japanese whisky producers were not prepared for this success. It takes 5 to 10 years to age a premium whisky, and at the moment of truth, they no longer had any reserves. So they began to invest in new distilleries to level the playing field.
Japanese Whisky: a prestigious label
The “Japanese Whisky” label has earned its well-deserved fame over the past ten years. It is however a double-edged sword. From the production deficit smaller companies took advantage of the somewhat lax rules to “produce” whisky in Japan. These companies import cheap whisky from Canada or molasses that they re-bottle in Japan before sending it abroad as “Japanese Whisky”. You may have guessed it, a practice that more and more Japanese actors are denouncing.
Mamoru Tsuchiya, one of the best historians of Japanese whisky, has just proposed to the government to establish stricter rules. These would force manufacturers to distil in Japan or age their products locally.
Don’t drink and drive. Enjoy responsibly.
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