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Issue 57 - The state of Japan

Whisky Magazine Issue 57
July 2006


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The state of Japan

For this issue's round table we hand over to Dave Broom, who recently hosted a live debate in Japan with representatives of three leading companies. This is his summary of that event

You probably know that the Japanese whisky industry is somewhat different to the Scottish. Given a business culture which is highly focused on loyalty to the company there is little chance of Japanese distillers exchanging stock, staff and information as their colleagues in Scotland do.

This autonomy has meant that traditionally there has been little interaction between the master-blenders and distillers from Suntory, Nikka, Kirin and Mercian.

Whisky Live! Tokyo has however tried to change this state of affairs. Two years ago the master blenders from the four firms appeared on the same stage and made the first-ever Japanese blend, using each others' whiskies.

This year three of them were back on stage, this time to share their thoughts on the current state of play in the Japanese whisky market. This groundbreaking talkshow was chaired by Dave Broom.

Q.What is happening in the Japanese whisky market? Do you think there is such a thing as the new whisky drinker and what are they drinking?

KO: My starting point is that recently in Japan, younger people have been drinking neutral spirits such as shochu.

This certainly hit the whisky industry, but when you consider the ingredients for shochu can include barley you can discern a trend towards single malt. I think we need a whisky which is very easy to appreciate by the new generation and new drinker who has started on shochu.

SA: From our point of view, our starting point was when we investigated the market and what the new ...

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