What Happened to Japanese Whiskey?


Posted by Ed 57 days ago

Commercial Japanese whisky has been around since at least 1929, so during my first trip to Japan (and at home in the U.S.), there was no reason to think that all the aged Japanese whiskies that were readily available in the early 2000s would soon achieve holy grail status.

In 2007, there were $100 bottles of Yamazaki 18-year sitting forlornly on a shelf at my local BevMo. One bottle now sells for more than $400 at online auctions; some online stores sell them for $700.

Yoichi 10, Yoichi 12, Hibiki 17 and 21, Taketsuru 12 and 17 — in 2014, rare and discontinued bottles lined store shelves, reasonably priced compared to their current $300 to $600 price tags. Those were great years.

I call them BTB — before the boom. Before the boom, a bottle of Yamazaki 12 cost $60. After the boom, a Seattle liquor store priced their last bottle of Yamazaki 12 at $225. Before the boom, Taketsuru 12 cost $20 in Japan and $70 in the States. After the boom, online auctions sell bottles for more than $220.

Before the boom, Karuizawa casks sat, dusty and abandoned, in shuttered distilleries. After the boom, a bottle of Karuizawa 1964 sold for $118,420, the most expensive Japanese whisky ever sold at auction, until a Yamazaki 50 sold for $129,186 the following year, then another went for $343,000 15 months later.

Before the boom, whisky tasted of rich red fruits and cereal grains. After the boom, it tasted of regret.


To time travel, I look at photos of old Japanese whisky bottles in Facebook groups, like they are some sort of beverage porn, and wonder: Who am I? What have I become?

There’s enough incredible scotch available here at home. Why do I — and the others whose interest spiked prices and made the bottles we loved inaccessible — care so much about Japanese whisky?


Ed 57 days ago
Whisky Tasting in Hong Kong:
Malt Masters - Sheung Wan, Hong Kong 
Ginger Whisky  - Shueng Wan, Hong Kong
Dram Good Stuff -   Wing Kut St., Sheung Wan,Hong Kong
Ronin -  On Wo Lane, Sheung Wan, Hong Kong

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