Karuizawa Stock Numbers – Calculations and Speculation

karuizawa-barrelSome readers will be familiar with this topic possibly through debate on a whisky forum or posts from a blog etc. Here I throw my 2 cents worth in. In an article posted on The Whisky Exchange Website last year, it was ‘observed’ by the writer that there were about 200 casks of Karuizawa stored in a warehouse at the Chichibu distillery. It was certainly hinted at quite strongly by the writer, that, this was all that was left over of the remaining stock after Karuizawa was closed and it was this number that was purchased by Number One Drinks Company, not withstanding they may have bottled a few casks in the interim.
So let’s go with that number for now. Since that article was written, 77 casks were vatted for the Spirit of Asama Bottling’s, seriously, how did that name ever make it onto a whisky label, but I digress. That leaves 123 casks. In the last 12 months there was also 3 multi-cask bottling’s that I can recall, one a vatting of 4 casks, the others contained vattings of 2 casks each. Now we have 115 casks of Karuizawa. By my calculations there has been at least 20 other single cask bottling’s released for the UK, Europe, Taiwan and Japan since the article. Don’t believe me? Japan alone has had at least seven single casks of Karuizawa bottled for their market alone since that time and that is not including the multi-cask bottling’s I have mentioned. Down to around 95 casks.
I know that there is already 4 single casks to be released this year, 2 for the US, one for Japan and the oldest Karuizawa bottling. Now 91 and counting. So what if the current yearly rate of bottling continues unabated? We are talking about no more Karuizawa casks left to be bottled after 5 years from now. The other thing to be considered is, are all the remaining Karuizawa good enough to be bottled as singles? If not, that would mean more multi-casks diminishing the remaining stocks even faster. Consider this also, can a liquor company survive on only bottling 5 casks a year? That would obviously slow down that rate of decline. Maybe if you can sell them for $250,000 a cask profit. Or, maybe if your other business interests now become your major earner and bottling Karuizawa a side show? Maybe more bottling’s of Hanyu/Chichibu that Number One Drinks also distributes to pick up the slack? We will certainly get a better idea over the next 12-18 months. In the meanwhile, millionaire whisky collectors get your cheque books ready, it’s going to be an expensive ride. The majority of us will have to be content just to sit back and watch.

UPDATE 15/3/2012: Please read TimF from TWE’s comment re the Asama bottling’s.

11 thoughts on “Karuizawa Stock Numbers – Calculations and Speculation

  1. Your calculations make a lot of sense, Brian, I could not have come up with a more succinct comment. There are now no casks from the 1960s left, with apparently only very few left from the 1970s. Let’s hope that there still is some good stuff left from the 1980s since nobody knows what the 1990s casks are worth. Either way, after five years latest it will definitely be over.

    • Cheers Pierre I value your input. Just one of those subjects I’ve been conscious of for a while and felt it was time to post on. I only really like the stuff from ’69, ’70, ’71. Some, but not everything from the early 80’s, a couple from the late 80’s/early 90’s. There seems to have been a bit of a revival around the late 90’s/2000’s. As always that is just my personal taste.

  2. Nice one, Brian. A post that really has not been discussed in detail else where – well we have all seen something written about dwindling stocks but no one has never sat down and explored/ contemplated the remaining stock in numbers. Informative and good discussion topic. Perhaps this “calculations and speculation” could be done with say Mars’ old stock? Great read.

    • Cheers Clint. I think the Mars calculations would be best left to someone like yourself with close connections to the distillery. A good post for Whiskiesrus in the future as enquiring minds(me), would love to know. Or, maybe reader/commenter and Japanese whisky enthusiast Niels could suss that out on his distillery tour this year?

  3. Hi Brian, apologies for coming late to this.

    Firstly, I must point out that the Asama had already been vatted (but not bottled) before we visited the Karuizawa casks at Chichibu, so you can add 77 casks to your number. The bottle of Asama we opened at Karuizawa was a pre-release sample of the vatting.

    I would imagine that there is still a significant amount of that vatting left, 77 young casks will have yielded a very large volume, all of which has been diluted to various strengths for the individual bottlings.

    I think you’re almost certainly correct that Karuizawa will be done in five years, in my opinion it could be sooner. As to whether a liquor company can survive on only bottling 5 casks a year, I don’t think that Number One Drinks has ever been either Marcin or David’s sole source of income. David has various commercial interests in Japan and Marcin owns a PR company. But hopefully by the time Karuizawa has gone we will be seeing much more Chichibu from Number One. I very much doubt that there is much Hanyu remaining.



  4. Hi Brian, just watched the Karuizawa 1964 Video Report posted on Nonjatta wherein Marcin Miller actually says that Karuizawa stocks will last for another two to two-and-a-half years. That seems to me to be a rather speedy rate of depletion. I guess we will find out in due time if that assessment was true or if it was just a marketing gimmick.

    • I don’t think I mentioned it in the post Pierre, but even if there were say 170-180 casks left(after reading TimF’s comment), there is no way you could count on all of them being good enough to bottle as single casks. So more marrying of casks and maybe some are just to crappy to bottle at all? So marketing gimmick or not I think most Japanese whisky enthusiasts will agree the days are numbered for Karuizawa.

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