Land of the Rising Single Malt

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There has never been a better time to invest in rare and often hard to source Japanese whiskies.

There is no doubt that demand for Japanese whisky has been growing steadily across Asia over the past few years. Most whisky enthusiasts remember when Yamazaki Single Malt Sherry Cask 2013 was named “Best Whisky in the World” in Jim Murray’s whisky bible, and it wasn’t long after that a bottle of 1960 Karuizawa (a closed distillery and one of only 41 bottles ever produced) sold for US$118,500 at Bonhams in Hong Kong, setting a record (at the time) for the most expensive bottle of Japanese whisky ever sold at an auction.

Prices for aged Japanese whiskies such as the Yamazaki 18-year-old or the Hibiki 21-year-old continue to rise as supply is scarce. Bottles of aged Japanese whiskies are sold out often the same day they hit the shelves at Duty-Free airport stores across Asia and many retail shops in Japan are out of stock.

Due to the lack of supply of whiskies aged 18 years and above, the distillers in Japan have been forced to respond to demand by releasing non-age statement whiskies (a trend we have seen in Scotland for a few years). This includes the Hibiki Japanese Harmony. Hibiki means ‘resonance’ and is owned by Suntory. The
unique bottle shape has twenty-four facets which symbolize the twenty-four seasons of the old Japanese lunar calendar.

 
 
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Hibiki is a blended whisky but unlike Scotland, Japanese distillers do not exchange spirits for blending. The constituent malts for the Hibiki Harmony, therefore, come from Suntory’s two malt whisky distilleries, Yamazaki and Hakushu, and the grain component from the company’s Chita distillery.

As collectors continue to fight for the remaining stock of old and rare Japanese whiskies at auctions, it is clear that demand for Japanese whisky is here to stay and it will be up to the distillers to help consumers find harmony with their new releases.

 
 

DrinkFred Kirby