Not even a decade has passed yet the Japanese whisky has risen from relative obscurity to the most sought-after liquor available on the planet for consumption.
Demanding factor has uprisen more in the U.S. and European region drinkers who whether are seduced simultaneously by the fortune of Japanese culture thus paying many dollars for the expertise to country’s finest famed craftsmen.
For the last few years, the U.S. has imported more than $40 million orders of the spirit ( Sr. Distilled Spirits Council ) coming in from $6 million in 2014 to 2016.
Although, beyond the hype lies an unsettling truth that the Japanese whisky doesn’t have to be made in Japan overall.
As a matter of fact, a major amount of it isn’t more to say. However in Scotch criteria Bourbons.
Bourbon is made majorly in the U.S while Scotch breeds from Scotland but a bottler in Japan can wrangle its aged spirits from anywhere and still label it Japanese whisky anyways. The designation carries more or so value than ever as a growing band of opportunists are taking advantage of the whole.
Almost everywhere age statement expressions have become exceedingly rare throughout Japan and across the world due to which it’s not uncommon to spot a newer brand offering whisky with age statements older than the company itself.
Categories include Suntory and nikka whisky which controls the overall market between them hence they had to eliminate age statements and are using younger Japanese liquids in blends thus to keep a product on the shelf. Suntory discontinued its popular Hibiki 17 last year because its reserves were running low on random.
Both have released gins and vodkas too to sustain interest in Japanese spirits during the wait for the aged stock to return to its previous levels beneath. The Scotch Whisky Association, on the other hand, records a similar sensation in its shipments to Japan, but on a larger scale.
Exports of single and blended grain are lighter, thinner spirit that’s often viewed as filler against heartier, more robust single malts thus increased meanwhile, Japanese markets showed no congruent rise in the sales of bottled Scotch grain whisky on the whole.
Much of this practice is hidden in plain sight as Nikka purchased a Scottish distillery 30 years ago.
Most of the imported stock is coming from Scotland since Japan has acquired and restarted Ben Nevis Distillery in 1989. The company has been blending into Black Nikka Clear range however not to compensate for supply shortages, but because production style is based on Scottish traditions.
The Chichibu Distillery in Saitama prefecture released an iteration of its Malt and Grain World Blended Scottish Whisky which was named the best limited-release blend at the 2019 World Whiskies Awards on the whole. The label clearly identifies the provenance of its many components which include Ichiro Akuto, owner and master distiller at Chichibu.
The deliberate misleading of consumers pointed out by Van Eycken makes sure that the labelling isn’t a legal requirement as according to him it’s a matter of honesty and transparency for the concerned drinker.
The Suntory is joining the category with the Ao whiskey which is a blend that combines a mature spirit from all of the major producing regions including Japan, Ireland, Scotland, Canada, and the U.S.
Overall the brand also labels its new spirit as a world whisky, though the packaging design still echoes the standard offerings with kanji and Japanese calligraphy and when the math doesn’t check out, the drinker can assume some portion of the bottle was imported after all.
Van Eycken estimated the factor that around two-thirds of Japan’s producers don’t possess distilling equipment but the country’s largest producers have been caught off guard by the rapid success of the category by the casual drinker.