Monday, April 13, 2015

The Japanese Whisky Situation: April 2015


To say that things have gotten crazy with Japanese whisky lately would be to understate things; For true fans of the stuff, things are getting a bit scary. Of course, those who've been watching the seemingly endless stream of alarming developments in the Single Malt Scotch whisky world will not be surprised.

In the last few weeks, here's what I've observed regarding the availability of Japanese whisky in stores here in Tokyo:

Suntory

  • Yamazaki 12 and 18 Year Old Single Malt whiskies - unavailable on the shelves of most stores on any random visit.
  • Hakushu 12 Year Old - available at at least half of the stores I visit on a regular basis.
  • Hakushu 18 Year Old - same as the situation for Yamazaki whiskies mentioned above.
  • Hibiki 12 Year Old - same as the situation for Yamazaki whiskies mentioned above.
  • Hibiki 17 Year Old - available in a couple of the higher-end department stores I frequent, but not at most standard bottle shops.
  • Hibiki Japanese Harmony (N.A.S.) - available everywhere for about the same price as Hibiki 12 Year Old (seems as if this one's going to replace Hibiki 12 yo)
Notes: The Yamazaki 12 and 18 yo whiskies became a lot rarer immediately following the announcement of Yamazaki Sherry Cask 2013 as World's Best by Jim Murray. Hibiki 12 yo disappeared almost overnight upon release of the Japanese Harmony expression.

Nikka

  • Yoichi and Miyagikyo 10, 12 and 15 Year Old Single Malt whiskies - 10 yo is fairly available for both distilleries, the 12 yo for both distilleries can be found at about half of the stores I visit, the 15 yo is a bit difficult to find, but is around if you look.
  • Taketsuru 17 Year Old - This was available everywhere until about three weeks ago, coinciding with it being named Malt Blend of the Year at the World Whiskies Awards; for now, the situation is about the same as the one for Yamazaki 12 and 18 yo as mentioned above.
  • Taketsuru 21 Year Old - This expression was available at around a third of the stores I frequent until three weeks ago, and then going the way of Taketsuru 17 yo.

Chichibu


  • Ichiro's Malt Chichibu new single malt releases (3 Year Old) - typically limited to 5000 or fewer bottles and are usually all bought up quickly. Couple this with them usually ending up on shelves without much warning, and you can see how elusive these bottles are. I made almost daily visits to several bottle shops for months hoping to be there on release day, and was last week. I was allowed to buy only one of the remaining two bottles of The Peated 2015 CS. I picked up a second bottle a few days later at the same shop after a restocking.
  • Ichiro's Malt Malt Blend whiskies (Mizunara Wood Reserve, Double Distilleries, Wine Wood Reserve) - available at most shops most of the time.

Shinshu


  • Single Malt releases (3 Year Old) - limited to usually around 6000 bottles. Komagatake 2011 The Revival and Komagatake Sherry and American White Oak are gone for the most part.
  • Blended Mars Whisky (3&7, Twin Alps) - abundantly available at low prices. I haven't tried them myself.
*Inspired by a post at Diving For Pearls 

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