Japanese whisky has soared in popularity, resulting in more demand than supply. We explore how this has happened and which bottlings are the most desirable
Given its superb quality and immensely loyal following it was almost inevitable that Japanese whisky would eventually find a global audience. Indeed, the world has now woken up to just how good Japanese whisky can be and the corresponding effect on supply has been profound – to the extent that, in the short term at least, it has changed the market picture.
The most highly collectable Japanese whiskies are age statement bottlings from the likes of Nikka and Suntory. They have never been in higher demand and because of the shallow supply are beginning to run out. Indeed rumours are that Suntory (the owners of Yamazaki, Hibiki and Hakushu) will follow in the footsteps of Nikka (owners of Miyagikyo and Yoichi) and suspend any new releases of age-statement whiskies for the next few years while they build up their reserves.
As a result, existing bottles are becoming harder to find as restaurants and specialist bars in the UK, Japan and the USA are scrambling to keep them in stock, while individual connoisseurs look to source bottles for their own collections.
What is left in the market has become seriously interesting and desirable, so it’s well worth having these producers and their individual distilleries on your radar.
The most coveted Japanese whisky producers
Nikka – Miyagikyo Distillery – **宮城峡**
Founded in 1934 in a location chosen for its clean air and fresh peated water. The malts are soft and mild in style.
Nikka – Yoichi Distillery – **余市**
From the northernmost of Japan’s four main islands. Bold and distinctively powerful in style.
Nikka – Blended malts – **竹鶴**
Blended exclusively from barley, the Taketsuru is characterised by rich, deep and elegant flavours.
Suntory – Yamazaki Distillery – **山崎**
Founded in 1923, this is the birthplace of Japanese whisky. The Yamazaki Distillery matures its whiskies in humid conditions that are perfect for barrel ageing. Layered, complex and very highly coveted by collectors.
Suntory – Hakushu Distillery – **白州**
Nestled deep in the forests at high altitudes, these are fresh, light and vibrant in style.
Suntory blended whiskies – **響**
Multi-award winning blends, the Hibiki whiskies are luxurious, rich and among Japan’s most prestigious.
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Image credit: http://whisky.suntory.com/