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Issue 132 - Highballing in Japan

Whisky Magazine Issue 132
December 2015


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Highballing in Japan

Japanese whisky demand outstrips supply

Japanese whiskies occupy, and have for the past several years, the top tier of global whiskies. This despite their relatively recent advent, very small market share in Japan, fierce competition and a couple of centuries of experience from nations where whisky is both terroir driven as well as a facet of national cultures.

In 2012, the world's best single malt whisky was given to Yamazaki Single Malt Whisky 25 Years Old. In 2013, the same award was given to Suntory Hibiki 21 Years Old. The world's best blended malt whisky in 2014 was awarded to Nikka Whisky Taketsuru Pure Malt 17 Years Old.

In Japan itself, Massan, a popular television series that ran from September 2014 to March 2015, told the story of Masataka Taketsuru, the founder of the Nikka Distillery, and his love of Jessie Roberta ‘Rita' Cowan, a Scotswoman he met while researching whiskies in Scotland in order to create the industry back home. So influential was the series in Japan, that sales spiked. Most of all, it got Japanese women drinking whisky, which in the country was historically the province of men.

According to the Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper, ‘Since the show started airing in September, Nikka's domestic whisky sales are up 50 per cent from the same period last year. Suntory and Nikka are both launching limited edition vintages aimed at Massan viewers.'

And according to Japan Times, there is an inability to maintain supplies.

“We're not keeping up with demand,” said Hasumi Ozawa, a spoke...

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