Whisky Magazine Issue 116
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Having experienced rocketing sales in the last few years, we see what is happening to the Japanese distilling scene
Sometimes reinventing the wheel is all it takes to get you out of a slump. That's what Suntory executives must have thought in 2009 when, with great fanfare and flashy advertising campaigns, they revived the highball concept in Japan. It was hardly a revolutionary idea. In fact, from the 50s to the early 80s, most whisky in Japan was consumed highball-style or mizuwari-style (heavily diluted with water). Younger whisky drinkers – too young to remember the (first) ‘Golden Age' of whisky in Japan – found old-style whisky bars a bit intimidating, so Suntory thought it wouldn't be a bad idea to try and get their cheaper whiskies into bars where they could be used for highballs, as an alternative to beer. They even started selling canned highballs in convenience stores. The rest, as they say, is history: Japanese whisky finally managed to climb out of a decades-long slump and sales were rocketing again. So where do things stand now, a few years later?
Having spent the last couple of years riding the highball wave, Suntory and Nikka decided the time was right to try and entice consumers to have their whiskies in less diluted form without scaring them away with single malt prices. The solution they came up with: the ‘rich'/'premium' version of the cheap blend. Making it ‘rich' was pretty straightforward. All it involved was a short finishing period in ex-sherry/exwine casks. In March of this year, Nikka released their ‘Black Nikka Rich Blend' – which they promoted as ...