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Issue 95 - Mr Hi Ball

Whisky Magazine Issue 95
April 2011


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Mr Hi Ball

Dave Broom talks liquid, occasion and serve with Suntory Liquors whisky supremo

?nyone who has sat in one of Japan's legendary whisky bars at any point over the past 25 years would draw the conclusion that here was a country which not only loved whisky, but which drank considerable quantities of it. Why else would there be so many places dedicated to the spirit? The reality was more chastening. If the drinker had instead gone to an izakaya [a casual restaurant which is the Japanese equivalent of a pub] they would have been lucky to see one glass of whisky being served in their time there. Beer yes, shochu definitely, but whisky? For all the growth put on by single malt in Japan within the past decade, the emergence of a new malt drinking young generation and the success of events like Whisky Live, the big picture showed a different picture. The whisky market in Japan, and specifically for blended Japanese whisky, was moribund. The high water mark in consumption had been reached in 1983 after which whisky sales went into steep decline for a quarter of a century. Japan was suffering the same set of circumstances that had similarly afflicted the UK and US markets: whisky's unfashionability coupled with a shift to white spirits.

The difference between the Scotch and Japanese industries however is that Scotch has always been export led and while the situation in the 80s and 90s was tough for Scotch, at least there were some new(ish) markets which helped to take up some of the slack. Japanese distillers had always relied on Japanese drinkers, an export st...

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