Buying Japanese Whisky in Japan 2017 Report

004Kicking things off early this year. A big thanks to all who posted reports over the last coupe of years especially the regulars. Great work and an invaluable source of reference if the 10’s of thousands of views these posts have received is anything to go by.

I though we’d start off with a report added by Martin 2 days ago in the 2016 post but is from January 2017 .
FYI . . .
In Hakata earlier this month found an Hibiki 21 at Daimaru. Then bought one of them Kurayoshi 18 year old at BIC Camera Hiroshima on a whim (wondering about this one, will taste when back home). Also found, but decided not to buy, an Hibiki 12 YO at a side street retailer. Just today found the last bottle on shelf of Hakushu 18 YO at BIC Camera in Ikebukuro (the bigger one, closer to station). Also bought some miniature Hibiki 17 YO at Seibu in Ikebukuro.

This post is open to anyone who wishes to contribute so keep the reports coming folks and happy hunting in 2017!

262 thoughts on “Buying Japanese Whisky in Japan 2017 Report

  1. Oops, Just looked through some photos & left out Fukuya department store in Hiroshima had at least 2 x Nikka 25 YO @ ¥75,600.

  2. I’m curious where that photo is from? Is it your collection, or from a bar in Japan?

    I’ll be sure to post updates.

    FYI I was in Paris recently and saw that the chain store Nicolas was selling the Hibiki 17 for about 157 Euros. Not a bad price considering that it’s about 12,000 yen or more in Japan.

    • That photo was from the Auld Alliance Bar in Singapore when it was situated at the Chijmes Complex in Singapore a few years back. At the time they had about 140 expressions of Japanese whisky. I remember at the time I could actually afford a few drams of the rare stuff. Now the shot price is commensurate with the bottle price so out of my league.
      Not bad for an ‘offshore’ price for the Hibiki 17. In Australia the cheapest I know is $AUD299. A mate of mine in Sydney bought a 6 pack there a couple of years back for $AUD147 each and forgot he had them up until a few months back. They were buried under some of his boxes of wine.

      • Seems some Liquor chains in Australia are starting to get some more stock of aged suntory stuff. Hibiki 17 $299, hibiki 12 $219 yamazaki 12 $155 hakushu 12 are not too hard to find and also some yamazaki and hakushu 18s can also be found but for at least $750..

        • Dan Murphy’s screwed up their prices a couple of months ago and myself and some friends picked up some bottles of Yama 12 for AUD$110 : )

          • Great pickup! Have not seen it that low. Vintage Cellars seem to have better pricing as Yamazaki 12 is closer to 200 at Dans..

          • I’m not seeing any Yamazaki at VC(Australian Booze Store) at the moment. Only Nikka FTB, Akashi Blend and Hakushu 18 for $AUD600. I did pick up a few bottles of Distillers Reserve at VC before Christmas at $AUD100 each.

  3. I was in Fuji Gotemba in December and they had plenty of the single cask 10 year old bottles (I picked up two) and a ton of the distiller’s select (seriously, a lot), both the malt and the grain version (the malt is much tastier in my opinion). Also yamazaki/hakushu 12 were pretty easy to find. In Ginza if you don’t mind paying $100-300 over price, you can pick up a lot of single cask Chichibu. They had some Yamazaki Mizunara and other rarities, which are in the $1-3k range, so about auction price. In Chichibu at a small store near the train station I found an akashi 5 year old cask 360 for ~$60, which I was pretty happy about.

    Ill be back in february and will update then. Happy hunting!

    • I’ve tasted of few of the single cask 10 year old from Fuji Gotemba. All decent and one in particular I would call excellent.
      Anyway nice haul and cheers for the report!

  4. At a small ski resort near Nagano Hibiki 21 for 47,500 yen which is around $550 AUD. Any chance I could get it cheaper in Tokyo?

    • I doubt you will find one in Tokyo and if you did, not sure it would be cheaper. Cheapest I have seen in Australia is about $750 and that was a few months ago.

      • I think I saw one for about 50,000 yen last time in Tokyo. I agree, I don’t think you will find it for any cheaper. In the US, I saw one in California for $600 about a month ago. $400-600 US is the range I have seen the past 2 years

        • Fwiw – the Hibiki 21 I bought at Daimaru (Hakata, Fukuoka) was about ¥25,000 as I recall. I’ve not seen any at Dan Murphy in Melb, Australia. Cheers, Martin

          • Can you advise when you paid that price as that is only Y4-5k more than 8 years ago?
            Just as an FYI, when I was passing through Sydney International Airport departures terminal last September they had a bottle of Hibiki 30 for AUD$3000. Could not get confirmation as to how they managed to secure a bottle.

          • Re the Hibiki 21 – I just remembered I could check my card transactions on phone (rather than waiting to see receipt at home):
            “Hakatadaimaru Fukuoka” 11th January, AU$326.10

            (And last I saw at Dan Murphy, the Hibiki 17 was $299. I’ve never seen 21 advertised)

          • Me too if my wife would’ve let me! To be frank, it may have been th only one they had. Although I never asked the question …

          • I’m not sure how these even stay on the shelf at that price. Could it really be that there are some retailers that don’t know how much these go for in other places in Japan or outside of Japan. Anyway, congrats on your score!

    • @jake, yes I completely agree. If i see any at <30,000 yen when im in japan next week I will swoop them right up. Thanks for the updates

  5. I emailed the friendly folks at the ANA Duty Free shops and asked for a price/inventory list from them. They provided the following, but cautioned that these may be sold out. That was certainly the case the last time I was at Narita in September of 2016- I think they only had the Fujisanroku 18 Year Old Sherry Cask, and none of the Suntory or Nikka malts. My go-to used to be the Hibiki 12 Years old in the flowery bottle for ¥10,000 (they also had the Hibiki 17 in the bird pattern bottle for ¥20,000), but those seem to have been depleted based on the information below.

    Anyway, I hope this is informative. I’ll be back in Tokyo the week of 2/20; detailed report to follow.

    Haskuhu 18 ¥50,000
    Hakushu 25 ¥250,000

    Hibiki Japanese Harmony ¥10,000
    Hibiki 21 ¥50,000
    Hibiki 30 ¥250,000

    Yamazaki 18 ¥50,000
    Yamazaki 25 ¥250,000

    Taketsuru 17 ¥6,300
    Taketsuru 21 ¥13,500
    Taketsuru 25 ¥70,000

    Coffey Grain ¥5,400
    Coffey Malt ¥5,400

    Fujisanroku 18 Years Old Sherry Cask 2016 Limited Edition ¥32,000 (would be curious to know if anyone has tried this, and how it was?)

    Ichirozu Malt ¥30,000 (no idea what this refers to specifically)

    • The chichibu is a single cask release. Last time they had a different single cask chichibu at Narita they only had 12 bottles in inventory. I asked the lady at the counter if she had tried it and if it was any good and she replied No, buy yamazaki lol. I proceeded to ignore her and buy it 🙂

      • Wow. Have you tried it? What was the age/cask type?

        I am a buyer of Chichibu single cask at ¥30,000 all day long. We get bottles of “The Floor Malted” and “On The Way” here in Chicago for $200, with “The First” going for closer to $250. Hopefully they’ll have some around when I get to Narita at the end of the month!

        • No I have not tried it yet, but it was cask 3867, Bourbon barrel then IPA barrel finish. And in regards to the Taketsuru 25 pricing at Narita, I can confirm april of last year I bought a bottle at Narita for US$640.86.

    • Thanks, definitely informative. Though as you say, will there be stock of all of these. Prices are sky high except for the Taketsuru 17 and 21 but these were sold out when i Narita last year. The Coffey grain and Coffey malt can most likely be found cheaper in liquor stores in Japan.
      Never tried the Fujisanroku Sherry Cask LE 2016 Blend. I bought a bottle of the Fujisanroku Small Batch 2016 Blend last year for Y24,000 which I really like.

      • I think those Taketsuru prices are well out-of-date. I bought Taketsuru 21 Years Old from the Narita duty free a few years back (can’t remember the exact price, but wasn’t more than $100) but have not seen any on the shelf since. Needless to say, if any showed up (much less at those prices) I’d be taking down every bottle I could get my hands on.

        • No, they haven’t officially discontinued the bottling. My bartender sources in Japan say though that it’s just as though they did. At one time I heard they were going to discontinue the 17’s & 21’s, until they had more juice, but I think they decided against that. But it’s near-impossible to find save for the few that come in every once in a while. I think they’ve bottlenecked the distribution line, until their supply can catch up with demand.

          • Current prices are about ¥18k for the 17yo and ¥25k for the 21yo. IF you can find them, that is…
            At least online the 21 almost seems to pop up more often than the 17, which is getting almost impossible to find, at least here in the Tokyo area

        • G’day as I live here in Chiba I get around a fair bit and yes from time to time you can still find the 21year old for about $150 AUS,and maybe it annoy you I have bottles of this and many other Japanese whiskies that I have bought dirt cheap,don’t drink it just collect it.

  6. Does anyone know when the 2017 Yamazaki Sherry Cask be released? I know from past releases, the distillery tend to favor 1st 2 weeks of February. I’m going to Japan next week so I am hoping I’ll be there when they officially release it. Any advice?

    • I have not heard any news about a 2017 release of the Yama Sherry Cask. The other issues are that even if they do release a 2017 version it is highly unlikely you would be able to walk into a liquor store in Japan or anywhere else for that matter and grab one off the shelf.
      Previously, there was a certain allocation that went to bars around the world and then you have the retailers that get an allocation that then advertise it for pre order. Basically they are all spoken for in one way or another before the actual release date.
      We all know what happens after that! Resold for 6-8 times the original price!
      Quite frankly I hope Suntory just uses the stock of Sherry Cask whisky they would bottle for these limited editions and use where it is needed by most folk. In their Hibiki blends and and regular single malts.

      • Considering that the 2016 was rolled out in the 2nd 1/2 of the year, I wouldn’t be surprised if they did the same thing with the 2017.

        BTW: On a side note, if anyone happens to be in Paris, there’s a brand new Whisky Bar, run by La Maison Du Whisky, near Etienne Marcel, called Golden Promise. It’s hidden below La Maison Du Sake and has 1000 bottles of whisky (the best stuff is in a secret room, you have to ask to get inside). Including quite a bit of rare Japanese whiskies. I enjoyed a shot of the 2016 Sherry Cask for about 40 Euros. But they had Hanyu’s (Card Series included) and Karuizawas for about 60-90 Euros a shot.

        • Won’t say this is totally relative but I was buying bottles of Karuizawa and Hanyu for that price 4-5 years ago and the last time I payed for drams of Hanyu Card Series was about 3 years ago in Tokyo for about 10-20 bucks a shot. The last bottle of card series I bought was when the Jokers were released and I paid $150 for the Color and $350 for the Monochrome. Sold them for a small fortune a year ago.
          The opposite was when I bought about a third of a bottle of the 2016 Sherry cask off a bar for $AUD400.

  7. I scored the following so far this trip.
    3 Date @ Y3,600 ea
    5 Yamazaki LE 2016 @ Y10,600 ea From AEON website
    1 Yamazaki 18 @ Y25,000 at AEON mall
    1 Hibiki 21 @ Y27,000 Local shop
    2 Hibiki 17 @ Y10,000 ea AEON mall
    Yesterday I saw a bottle of Yamazaki 18 @ Y27,000 at my local store and am really thinking about picking it up… I already used my allowance for this year…. I picked up most of them outside of Tokyo area. Not much of luck in the big cities! Good luck everyone!!

    • Congrats! Excellent haul especially the Hibiki 17 at Y10k each. I’d say equal to 90% of the quality of the 21 at almost a 3rd of the price.

      • Thanks! I am pretty happy! But then again when you look at those prices on Yamazaki 18 and Hibiki 21, you can get some really good scotch… That’s why i am hesitated about getting that second bottle of Yama 18. I know they are really hard to come by. I have been hunting for a bottle ever since 2014. I bought a bottle of Talisker 18 for Y9,900 just last month. To me that is an amazing deal for a good 18 year old scotch. I know the prices on Japanese whiskies won’t come down but hopefully we will see more of 18 and 21 years old on the shelves in a near future!!!

        • I understand your trepidation about buying the second bottle but I think you might regret it if you don’t. That is a good price under today’s circumstances.

          • In your opinion, how does it compare to Yamazaki LE 2016? I tried 2014 and 2015 and really liked them. Since I have 5 bottles of LE 2016… i don’t feel like buying another bottle that costs twice as much and I am not sure if it is twice as good… Thanks for your input!! I really like reading your reviews here!

          • In today’s condition’s I would not hesitate to buy a couple of bottles of Yamazaki 18 at the Y25k you mentioned. It may not be much better than the 2016 LE but if you needed to sell it later I’m pretty sure you could make a profit. I doubt if that is something you could do with a bottle of Talisker 18 which is a lovely but easy to find/buy whisky with no indication it will be discontinued any time soon.
            The prices Yama 18 was selling for outside of Japan a few years back are long gone and even 8 years ago it was around the Y20k mark in Japan so never a cheap item there.
            So, at Y25k only a 25% premium on what it used to sell for in Japan and something in the region of USD$250 cheaper that you can buy it at auction outside of Japan.

    • Nice score on the Hibki 17’s. Guess Aeon Malls are moving up in the world. I remember, in the past, I’d only find the bottom shelf stuff and their generic AEON brand whisky on the shelves. But my last trip, at one AEON mall, I saw that they had the Hibiki 21 DFS painted bottle edition, sadly at the ridiculous DFS price of 50,000 Yen.

  8. I think you’re right. The net has been quiet about its release if there is really one anyway. Last year there was an announcement so everyone was anticipating it. Anyhow, just searching for the hibiki 21 and yama18 is already like looking for a unicorn.

  9. Just grabbed a Shinshu Mars Komagatake 1986 30 year old (latest release) for ~$850 USD at Liqours Hasegawa (last bottle). Plus, wandered around Sendai this evening and found two bottles of Hibiki 21 for 25000Yen!

    • Nice grab on the 1986 Komagatake. We just got them here in the US; retailing for $2,000/bottle. Would be interested to hear any reviews of this. I have only ever tried the Iwai NAS and the Iwai Tradition NAS from Mars, and was not a fan of either.

      • Thanks! Yes I was in K&L in California a week ago and they had 4 bottles of it, although it was ~$1800 (cheapest I’ve seen in US). I almost bought a bottle but im glad I didn’t 🙂

      • If you’ve only tried those 2 I understand why. I think it will be a while until you see a review on that 30YO unless Logan decides to crack his and give us a report : ). Small distilleries like Mars can be a bit hit and miss but I’m a fan of the distillery and overall prefer Mars Whisky over Karuizawa.

        • I am hoping that a dram will be available to taste at the chichibu whisky festival this coming weekend 🙂 If so ill report then!

  10. First time poster. I’m in Tokyo right now.

    Today, I bought a Hibiki 21 @ ¥27000 after tax in Takadanobaba at a small liquor shop on the outskirts of the town.

    They also had a Hakushu 18 at that same rate, though I did not pick it up.

    I’m very interested in finding Yamazaki 18 at ¥25-27000, will happily scoop up every bottle I find at that rate.

    • A couple of updates:

      At a Yamaya, I found a very large supply of Yamazaki 12 (at least sixteen bottles) @ 8380 today. Additionally, I bought them out of Hibiki 17 @ 11800.

      Still looking for a Yamazaki 18 and second Hibiki 21 to finish up my whisky spending for this trip.

    • Last update for me unless I find my elusive Yamazaki 18 at a reasonable price.

      I found two bottles of Hibiki 21 in Ginza of all places for ¥21,800 each. Bought both. 🙂

  11. Hey, was just hunting around Tokyo yesterday for some Taketsuru 17 or 21.. Didn’t find any, but saw Hibiki 21 and Yamazaki 18 (Limited Edition, I think?) at Yamaya in Shibuya, 24800 ea before tax, I believe.

    Didn’t pick either of them up because there were a few other things I wanted. I will say there was nothing out of the ordinary in most places though.

  12. Walked around Sendai again last night. Found more bottles of hibiki 21, this time for 29,000Yen. Also found the whole range of Yoichi and Miyagikyo sherry and sweet, fruity and sweet, peaty, etc bottles priced at 15,800Yen each (500mL bottles). I think you can get those directly from the distillery for about $100usd though so I didn’t pick any up. Havent seen any yamazaki 12 or 18 around, just the NAS stuff.

    • I agree that that the prices of the Yoichi and Miyagikyo sherry and sweet, fruity and sweet, peaty etc are a bit over the odds but I guess if you can’t make it to the distilleries(assuming they have some in stock) may be worth picking up a bottle or 2. For those who don’t know these are only 500ml bottles.

  13. 15 year old sherry wood yamazakura for about 320USD and karuizawa Uniting Nations 40 year old Karuizawa+Scotch whisky blend for about 1000USD available at Isetan Shinjuku. Other than that the Isetan had the Mars Tsunagu (big and baby bottles) for roughly 80 USD and 100USD respectively. They also had mars new make and 6 month old for 30 and 50 USD which is a bit ridiculous 200mL of new make imo. Also found a few bottles of yamazaki 2016LE from anywhere between 100-220USD. Finally, shinanoya has a eigashima 5 year old white wine cask and a 3 year old peated mars komagatake, for 75 and 120 USD respectively. However, those last two are lottery only so you can go put your name down if you want 🙂 okay, back to hunting

  14. Found a bottle of Chichibu the peat 2016 for Y9720 today at Liqours Hasegawa. The thing is you have buy the bundle that includes Nikka Coffey Malt (Y6180) and Hakushu 12 (Y11000). The other two are a little overpriced but the Chichibu is definitely a great deal! Only two sets left when I was there today!!!

      • Please let us know what you think of it!! I looked at a lot of places and none of them had this bottle. I believe the price on this bottle is already 3-5x of its original price…. That’s awesome you are able to order them with duty free!!!

        • Well without Japanese tax/duty. I’m sure Australian customs will be adding their more that 2 cents worth of duty once it arrives.

          • Fellow Australian here, if you don’t mind me asking where are the best places to order from?

            Also, do you find Australian customs always hits you by roughly doubling the price?

          • I have some internal contacts that assist me, so it’s nothing I can pass on to readers sorry.
            I’m not hit with customs duty that doubles the price.

  15. I was in Ueno yesterday and walked around the side streets surrounding Liquor Mountain. Found a lot of Hibiki 21 and Yamazaki 18, though at pricing that I wasn’t interested in paying (30k on the Hibiki, 34k on the Yamazaki, both pre-tax).

    • Liquor Mountain is not what I’d call “competitively priced”. Even in the small cities they’re usually 50%-100% over the MSRP.
      But I did find a few discontinued products in there, like the Nikka Hakata 100 Pure.

  16. Just hit town, checked out the Bic Camera Yurakucho. Lots of Kurayoshi on the shelf- they had the 18 Year Old Pure Malt (50%) for ¥12,800, the 12 Year Old Pure Malt (50%) for ¥6,980, and the 8 Year Old Pure Malt Sherry Cask (55%) for ¥7,480. Would be curious if anyone had opinions on these? I bought a couple bottles of the 8 Year Old Sherry Cask last year but have not opened one as yet. Other than that, they had Mars Maltage “Cosmo” NAS for ¥4,180, Golden Horse “Musashi” Pure Malt for ¥4,980 (never heard of this one- anyone?). Finally, they had little 50 ml bottles of Hakushu 12 Years Old for ¥720. I didn’t purchase any of the above, but could go back. I’m intrigued by the Kurayoshi. Thoughts?

    • Can anyone guarantee that the Kurayoshi contains only whisky distilled in Japan? I’m not so sure. An 18YO Japanese Whisky costs around the price of a 18YO Scottish whisky….Hmmmm!
      Golden Horse is a brand of whisky that was distilled by Toa Shuzo Co. Ltd. This company was once owned by the family of Ichiro Akuto of Hanyu/Chichibu fame. They used to distill a range of Aged Single Malt Golden Horse and you can find some reviews on the blog. They also made Golden Horse Blends mixed with imported Scottish whisky. The current owner has continued the Golden Horse “Musashi” name but my understanding is that it still contains Scottish whisky and as the Hanyu whisky stills were dismantled in 2004 and Toa Shuzo don’t make whisky anymore I’m not sure what if any of the content is Japanese. It is incorrectly listed on whiskybase as distillery Hanyu(clearly this cannot be the case).

      • Kurayoshi is imported Scotch whisky, aged in Japan (from an unnamed distillery). Their “Made in Nippon” label is very deceptive. Just trying to cash in on the Japanese Whisky market.

      • Finally opened a bottle of the Kurayoshi 8 Years Old Sherry Cask. My notes: Pale gold color. Nose of wood and cocoa, with an agave-like green note, some sweet and citric aromas of orange curaçao, and sugary whiff of pavlova. This enters the mouth sweetly, becoming woody through the midpalate, and lingering with a slightly odd aftertaste. I would have been hard pressed to identify this as a sherry cask, as there were none of the dried fruit or nutty flavors I typically associate with that finish. I would also have been unlikely to identify this as Japanese (probably because it’s not), as it lacks anything quintessentially Japanese in character, such as the spicy and exotic nuances of mizunara oak.

        If Matsui-san had a more serious purpose to importing this than just capitalizing on the recent Japanese whisky boom, it’s not immediately apparent from sipping the whisky.

        From a pure flavor perspective, there’s nothing terribly wrong with this (except for the off aftertaste) but I’d prefer to spend my $65 on a quality dram from Speyside (e.g. Glenfarclas 12 years old) or the very good Nikka Taketsuru NAS. I’d advise all those future travelers to Japan to avoid this one without fear of missing out.

  17. Don Quijote Roppongi had 3 bottles of Yamazaki 12 Years Old for ¥8,980. There was also The Nikka 40 Years Old for ¥780,000 and The Nikka 12 Years Old for ¥5,880. Finally, they had the Kurayoshi Pure Malt 18 Years Old for ¥11,800 and the Kurayoshi Malt 8 Years Old Sherry Cask for ¥6,480. I also found some Hibiki 21 Years Old at a nearby liquor store for ¥25,000, which seemed reasonable.

  18. Shinjuku Edition: the Bic Camera next to Shinjuku station had The Nikka 12 Years Old, as well as the same Kurayoshi selection as the Yurakucho Bic Camera. They also had the 50 ml bottles of Hakushu 12 Years Old (¥720), Yamazaki 12 Years Old (¥720) and Hibiki 17 Years Old (¥830). Assuming 700 ml to a bottle, you could assemble a “synthetic” bottle of Hibiki 17 Years Old from 14 of these little guys for ¥11,620. Not too shabby. At Shinanoya, they had the White Oak Akashi Single Malt 5 Years Old Exclusive Cask for Shinanoya #1091 (500 ml, 59%) for about ¥8,000. Being a big fan of Akashi, I picked up a bottle. The hunt continues…

    • Well done on scoring the Akashi! Last time I was in Shinanoya Shinjuku(always takes me at least 20 minutes to find it) I grabbed the last bottle at the time of Hakushu 18. No limited editions in stock.
      Stark contrast to when I first visited 8 years ago when they had Ichiro’s Malt the Game for under Y8000. I actually didn’t buy one first time and 6 months later they were still sitting on the shelf and grabbed one then! What are they going for now…….over $2 grand and still one of my all time favorite Japanese whiskies…..

    • I’ve been following this post since I where heading for a weekend in Tokyo. I just arrived yesterday I am a bit surprised of how rare the good ones are! I’ve visited Don Quijote Jimbocho (and another which I can’t remember where it was :)) and just found what I guess is some standard NAS. The Bic Camera at Yurakucho had the same selection as described in Shinjuku in the post above. Tried Shinanoya in Ginza and they had the Akashi White Oak 5 years Exclusive cask #61091. Never tried Akashi before but after a quick Google-search I decided to grab one. Was planning to visit the Liquor Express a couple of doors down the street but it looked very closed. Not shure if it was permanent or they just have different opening hours than most shops (visited around 1 pm).

    • Is that the Akashi 5 year white wine cask (Blue Label)? I’ve got one on hold for me in Japan, just waiting for me to pick it up. Also got the single cask Mars Komagatake for Shinanoya as well. Surprisingly, my Mars collection has grown. I originally wasn’t a Mars fan after trying The Revival 2011 & first edition of The Lucky Cat. But they’ve improved a lot over the last 3 years.

      • Where for the most part I have always been a fan of Mars whisky even though there is more variability in consistency compared to what you would expect from large players such as Suntory and Nikka. For me the best part is that in my opinion, their new whisky is the equal of Chichibu at prices considerably cheaper especially limited editions/single casks. I certainly rate Mars above Karuizawa in my Japanese Whisky pecking order.
        Also just finishing up my tasting notes for a Mars Single Cask 2013-16 bottled by E-Power which I will be posting up in the next couple of days.

        • Do you think some of the Older Mars releases (25 + 3, or the new 30 year) are of the same quality and consistency that you feel about the younger versions? I assume they’ve got to be using barrels from their previous distillery (Yamanashi) to make those? I heard some of the older releases were not up to par with the current stuff. Some of the Japanese bartenders tell me the 80’s Japanese whiskies of some distilleries were made from almost anything and that the term “Whisky” was used very loosely.

          • The short answer would be on balance, yes. Unfortunately there is also a longer version : )
            Bottling single casks in Japan is a relatively new phenomenon. I can think of only a small amount of single casks that were bottled in the 80’s by Mercian when they owned Karuizawa. These whoever were not general releases, but were bottled for various companies to be handed out gifts to clients. I can’t think of one other example of a single cask of Japanese whisky that was bottled before the year 2000. We now have a quite a few Japanese single cask whisky we can refer to that were distilled in the 80’s or earlier but again, bottled after 2000 when there was a market for this type of Japanese whisky.
            Even having a dedicated range of age statement whiskies if fairly new compared to Scotland. I can think of the old Hokkaido labeled Yoichi 12YO as one that was bottled a while back but not much else off the top of my head.
            So I would suggest that when these bartenders are talking about the Japanese whisky they were serving during that era, they were talking about blend fodder using either Japanese Whisky, Scottish Whisky, a blend of both or adding some other type of distilled spirit or additives. Does this mean companies such as Nikka or Suntory did not have many casks they could have bottled as high quality singles, or long age statements say 18YO plus, no. It just means it was not a thing back then.
            Which brings me back to Mars. I’ll start by saying I have not tried the new 30Y0 but the 3 Plus 25 would be in my top 30 Japanese whiskies tasted. I do have a bit of experience with the distillery as I have just tasted my 41st expression from this company and includes blends, single casks, aged statements and NAS single malt, the earliest being distilled in 1985.
            Checking whiskybase there is only 104 bottles from Mars listed, 98 under Mars Shinshu and 6 under Kagoshima.
            I didn’t count them exactly but it looks like about 70% of those are single casks. So about 70 single casks. From that we can assume that the vast majority of Whisky produced by Hombo Shuzo has gone into blends. As such it is very hard to tell how many of those casks on their own could have been bottled as good quality single casks down the track. Also there is no reason when most of your whisky is being used for blends to have these casks sitting around aging for a long time. I actually have no idea why Mars had/has any older casks lying around at all. My understanding is that we are talking about percentage of older casks that amounts to about 25% of that Akuto-san salvaged from Hanyu. So around 100. It is also my understanding that there is maybe only a hand full left including at least 1 Mizunara cask that Number 1 Drinks has been trying to buy.
            So as I said at the start, on balance, with so few single casks to choose from and how many of those that I have tasted I have enjoyed, Mars definitely had the requisite skill set to make some excellent whisky even back then.

  19. Narita Duty Free report: ANA had Kirin Fujisanroku 18 Years Old Blended Whisky Sherry Cask Finish 2016 Limited Edition for ¥32,000. They also had two bottles of the Chichibu Single Cask #2650 (American White Oak Oloroso Sherry) Travel Exclusive for ¥30,000. I bought both bottles of Chichibu on the shelf- hopefully for you all, they will restock. There was also the normal range of overpriced Hakushu and Hibiki in the pretty bottles. That’s all from me this week. Sayonara Tokyo, and Arigato Gozaimasu.

    • Interesting you didn’t grab a bottle of the Kirin LE Sherry Cask Finish. While I respect Akuto-sans work at Chichibu the whisky can be just as variable as Kirin. Y2k more for an 18Y0 over a young Chichibu would have been very tempting for me. Thanks for the report as many people don’t have time to search the back streets and appreciate a report of the duty free offerings.

      • Of course I grabbed a bottle of the Fujisanroku! I’ve been kicking myself since September for not buying one then. For what it’s worth, seemed like there were a lot of bottles around (at the ANA and FaSoLa duty free shops) vs the Chichibu.

        A tip for other travelers- I find the centrally located shops (right after passport control) often get cleaned out. If you don’t mind a little hike, checking out the shops farther out toward the gates can yield a surprise every now and then.

        • Probably a few reasons there are less Chichibu that than the Kirin. The Chichibu is a single cask and despite the fact Kirin produces whisky in far greater quantities than Chichibu, their higher end stuff is less well known by whisky enthusiasts. Chichibu is also more collectible with resale values far stronger than Kirin.
          If you open them I’m sure readers would love to read about your thoughts!

          • Great finds! I also happened to pick up 2 bottles at Narita last week and will be opening mine tonight. Review to come 🙂

          • 293 bottles of this particular single cask (#2650), according to the label. I have posted pictures of the front and back label on CellarTracker, if anyone is interested.

          • So I opened this up over the weekend and was a little disappointed. The nose was delightful and sweet, but the palette has a synthetic sweetness that I can only describe as some weird bubble gum that I do not enjoy much. There are some good chocolate and honey and oaky spice notes, and some very mild sherry influence notes, and the finish is pleasantly spicy and caramel sweet, but that weird note on the palette kind of ruined it for me. It reminded me of the same note I got on the Chichibu Port Pipe (so if you like that then no issues). Water helped dilute the strangeness down for me. Anyway, interesting bottle.

          • Thanks for the review especially your honesty. Not always easy to remain unbiased when you have spent Y30k on a young bottle of whisky.

          • Please check back in once the bottle has been open a while? Would be interested to know if the odd flavors dissipate, which has been my experience with other freshly-opened whiskies.

            Also, my buddy who just came through Narita noted that bottles of this single cask (#2650) are now available in the FaSoLa duty free, along with a different single cask (Spanish oak, according to him?). In any case, something to look out for. Would be keen to hear about the other one, if anyone else has bought/tried it.

  20. Arrived in Tokyo this morning. Tokyo Hands in Shibuya had plenty of Yamazaki 12 and Hibiki 17 miniatures. Shinanoya Shinjuku had a Single Cask Mars, exclusive for Shinanoya (couldn’t make out if this was the peated one) for ¥15000. Unfortunately none of the Akashi White Wine Cask I’d been hoping for, but fingers crossed for Ginza tomorrow.

    Picked up a 200ml bottle of the Mars Tsunagu at Isetan. They still had 700ml bottles there as well as an Akashi 5 Year Cognac Single Cask (¥14000). Intrigued I tried some at the tasting bar for ¥500. It’s a decent dram but is not worth the price Isetan are asking (especially since Shinanoya had a similar exclusive 5 Year for almost half the price!) – probably explains why it’s still in stock.

    There was no Chichibu Red Wine Cask left behind the tasting bar at Isetan – hopefully Zoetrope got one as I would love to try it.

    Bic Camera Shinjuku (near the station) had Double Distilleries (700ml) and MWR (200ml) plus two bottles of Mars Cosmo.

    Otherwise my only other purchase so far has been two bottles of Yamazaki LE 2016 from at ¥9000 each. Will be visiting Chichibu, Nagano and Matsumoto later in the week so fingers crossed for a better selection further afield.

    • Shinanoya Ginza still has the Akashi 5Yr White Wine Cask (1 left on the shelf at least) and also a new Single Cask release from Mars called ‘Le Papillion’ – 4 Year Single Cask American White Oak for ¥9000. Picked up the Akashi but left the Mars.

      Liquor Express Ginza had plenty of bottles to look at, but at the prices they’re asking you’re better off taking a punt in an auction.

      Mitsukoshi had the same Akashi Cognac Cask as Shinjuku and a Yamazakura 9 Year Sherry Cask for ¥21000. If you’re a tourist you can pre-book your duty free at Mitsukoshi but they only had the Suntory range (inc Hibiki 30 at ¥250000). I asked someone working there and they explained they don’t get any of the duty free Chichibu or Fuji.

      • Just out of curiosity why not the Mars Single Cask? I’ve just cracked a pretty impressive young AMO Single Cask Mars For E-Power and would definitely grab another. Y9000 seems more than reasonable when a Chichibu single cask of the same age can be 2-3 times more off the shelf and even more on the resale market.

      • They had quite a few left so thought I’d leave it for now – I’ve got tours of Fuji Gotemba and Hakushu where I can buy distillery exclusives so it’s trying to work out how best to stay within duty free limits!

        If I don’t buy as much there then will be back for the Mars!

        • JP, I’d be really interested to hear your impressions of those distilleries, as well as a detailed report of what they have for sale. I visited Yamazaki last year and was a bit disappointed- the location was beautiful and the tasting bar selection was epic, but the retail offerings were extremely limited- only the NAS Yamazaki Single Malt in the little souvenir bottle.

          For what it’s worth, they also had Yamazaki 18 and 25 behind (underneath) the counter, but you had to ask specially for them. Might be worth trying a similar strategy, at least at Hakushu.

          You might also quiz them on commercial strategy- will they be able to continue producing Hakushu 12 Years Old, or are they moving towards full-on NAS like Nikka-san?

          Look forward to hearing your thoughts!

          • Thanks for the tip – I’d heard about the Yamazaki 25 and was hoping for something similar at Hakushu. Was going to phone and ask about that today – we’re heading there on Saturday.

            Agree with your view of Yamazaki, we visited there when last here in 2015. Enjoyed the tour and the small NAS bottle but was disappointed with the rest – especially since they had a full range of other Beam Suntory products to rub salt in the wound! The tasting bar, which still had the single cask Yamazaki and Hakushus made up for it, but I understand even those are running dry now.

            Currently en route to Chichibu where we’re doing the tour tomorrow. I understand there’s a shop near Seibu Chichibu station which keeps a stock of Chichibu whisky – if there’s any left after the Matsuri two weeks ago I’ll report back.

            Otherwise in whisky purchasing news I came across 3 bottles of Chivas Regal 12 Yr Mizunara in the supermarket under Toda Koen station – ¥1800 for 350ml. I’ve already cracked it open – bottled at 40% but an unmistakable smell and taste of Mizunara. Really impressed.

  21. Please I’ll visit sapporo at the end of March you have good addresses for chichibu or premium japanese whiskys . I find your discussion is very interesting.

  22. Good day folks,

    I’ll be travelling to Japan for the first time this August ’17. And i am a huge fan of single malts. I have read the posts a bit, but there are so many names going around.
    I’ll be flying on Tokyo, and maybe travel around in my two week stay with a friend. Can somebody give me a list of the best shops where i can find some good quality Japan whisky? I don’t expect somebody to do this, but if you do, thanks a lot!!
    The Netherlands

    • If you have been reading the posts from this year and last you will realize that their are a few regular places but there are no guarantee’s who will have what on any given day. There are links on the blog to some places you can by whisky in Japan and tons of reader input. Mostly it’s a lot of hard yards wandering the streets, checking out any place that looks like they sell Japanese Whisky and hoping for some luck.

    • Hi there Paul,

      1. Liqours hasegawa. In tokyo station, there are two locations within 2 minutes of each other. Check their website as they list the bottles that are new. They are slightly overpriced but often time have rare bottles and limited releases. Plus you can try a lot of their whiskies for 100-250Yen.
      2. Shinanoya. Locations in shinjuku and shibuya are the best. Look at their website as well. Also, look at the cash register because sometimes they have a sign hanging advertising a raffle for some rare bottles.
      3. Isetan and Mitsukoshi department stores. Both of these stores have multiple locations, typically in the big areas like shinjuku, shibuya, ginza, etc. They have private bottling every now and again.
      4. Aeon malls and Bic Cameras. These ones usually don’t have anything interesting, but occasionally have hibiki 21, yamazaki 18 and hakushu 18 for very reasonable prices

    • Definitely echoing @Dramtastic’s comments here.

      I recently returned from a two week stay in Tokyo. I visited every shop I found and made multiple visits to others that had things.

      To give you an example, the YaMaYa in Shibuya was cleaned out when I first went. That very afternoon, someone posted on this thread that they restocked one single bottle of Hibiki 21 and Yamazaki 18 but they didn’t pick it up. I went back the very next morning and those were gone, but their case was filled with Yamazaki 12 and Nikka from the Barrel.

      Since that YaMaYa was close to my Airbnb, I visited on a near daily basis. Their stock fluctuated so much that it was essentially useless making notes of “this store has X”. It’s more of “If you want X, keep trying YaMaYa stores”, with X being:

      + Yamazaki 12
      + Nikka from the Barrel
      + Hibiki 17
      + Ichiro’s Malt Mizunara Wood Reserve
      + Ichiro’s Malt Double Distilleries

      Every bottle of Hibiki 21 I found was at random shops that happened to have one or two bottles of it and literally nothing else worth looking at. Most shops were grossly overpriced — the ones with a lot of inventory generally are. I found two shops (one in Ueno, another in Ginza) that had literally every single bottle I would have wanted to buy, at exorbitantly marked up prices.

      My advice:

      Wander the streets. Dip into every liquor store you see. Browse the whisky isle, the locked case, and the shelf behind the counter. Know what you want to pay and go in ready to buy. Most of my visits lasted 1-2 minutes max: Walk in, look for what you want, and walk out.

  23. En route back from Chichibu just now. There are several liquor stores, including ones near to Chichibu and Seibu-Chichibu stations and Karnet Coffee however none of them had anything of note, although all of them said they do stock Chichibu when available. Next to Chichibu Shrine there was a shop with Double Distilleries and two Akashi Single Cask – Sherry Cask 8Yr (¥10000) and Bourbon Cask 4Yr (¥6000).

    We visited the Distillery where we got to try several single cask samples but there is no plan to sell whisky direct. They did however have some branded glassware so we obliged!

    Otherwise we visited two great bars – Cocktail Bar Snob and Bar Te-Airigh. At Snob we tried the 2015 and 2017 Matsuri bottles amongst others and at Te-Airigh the recent Isetan Red Wine Cask and the 52 Seats of Hapiness PX Cask (released last year for the Chichibu Dinner Train). They also had a bottle of Yamazaki 50 – ¥20000 for 10ml (didn’t go for that one…)

    In summary, don’t go to Chichibu if you’re on the hunt for bottles, however to sample some rare single casks in friendly bars and at much better prices then Tokyo then this is your destination.

      • Of course… firstly the good ones:

        Chichibu Red Wine First Fill Cask for Isetan (Bar are-Airigh). Very fruity – a red wine cask that has worked and imparted sweetness without the tannins that some red wine finishes can do. Not sure of the provenance of the wine casks – Yumi said they use New Zealand casks quite a lot.

        Bar Zoetrope 10th Anniversary (not sure how Bar Te-Airigh got this, maybe it fell off the back of the lorry as it left Chichibu). This is a 7 year first fill bourbon cask and this is the oldest Chichibu I’ve had. If this is representative of the older stock, it’s maturing well.

        Chichibu Specification for Acorn Ltd (Bar Snob). This was a 6 year, double Cask finish (3 years bourbon, 3 years PX). Bottles at 59.7%, it didn’t need any water as the PX sweetness really smoothes out the edges.

        Chichibu Oloroso Cask (tried at the distillery). Yumi explained this was a sister cask to the Spanish Oak Travel Edition. I didn’t detect any of the bubble-gum that Logan had, althk This this was a different oak to his bottle.

        And the bad…

        52 Seats of Hapiness – 6 Years in a PX Hogshead. Not a bad dram, but the PX totally over-powers the spirit and you couldn’t really tell you were drinking Chichibu.

        Whisky Talk Fukuoka 2015 – 5Yr split between a first fill Virgin Oak and a third fill puncheon. The wood had left a rather dry, dusty note, nothing like the Yamazaki Puncheon for example.

        Also a big shout out to one of the local’s we met at Bar Snob who bought me a Peated 2015 and Peated 2016. Yumi said that the 2016 should be available in the U.K in April (it’s currently on a boat somewhere) so still hope of getting my hands on a bottle.

        In Tokyo news Bic Camera next to Ikebukuro Station had plenty of Yamazaki and Hakushu 12 in today, as well as Ichiro Malt and Grain, Yoichi and Miyagikyo. The alcohol only Bic Camera in Ikebukuro had some small MWR.

        Heading to Hakushu tomorrow followed by a few days in Matsumoto and Nagano. Have got a few bars in mind and will report back if I find anything of interest in the shops.

  24. A common theme here seems to be irregular, idiosyncratic, or erratic supply patterns. Does anyone have any industry knowledge (about either production, supply chain, or distribution) that would explain these variations? It just seems odd that a handful of bottles would show up on a given day; unless, for example, you assume that Suntory is regularly producing smallish batches of, say, Hibiki 21 Years Old and distributing them evenly throughout the country? Thanks in advance for any insights you guys can provide.

    • I don’t and when I was at Yamazaki last year and asked that exact type of question the response was vague to say the least!

      • That’s pretty classic Japanese communication style, they tend not to address things directly- mostly it’s talking around the subject. I’m hoping to find one of the Beam guys from Kentucky to interrogate- will be more likely to clear up the mystery.

        • Where is I don’t think at the time the vagueness was something deliberate. I honestly believe that both Suntory and Nikka got caught so badly with their pants down when the Japanese Whisky scene exploded, they don’t have a clue what they are doing. Nikka even worse than Suntory as I don’t think there will be age statement single malts from Miyagikyo and Yoichi for at least another 5 years. Until that time I’ll be sticking with Nikka From The Barrel and Pure Malt Black as they are both cheaper and better IMO than the NAS bottling’s of Miyagiyo, Yoichi and Taketsuru.

          • I guess it shouldn’t come as a surprise that a country which didn’t grow for 20 years would find itself unable to cope with a unexpected massive surge in demand, particularly when the lead time for new supply is 12 years plus. In fairness, some of the U.S. bourbon makers didn’t do much better. My fear remains that someone new to Japanese whiskey tries one of the NAS bottles for $80 plus, finds it subpar (compared to comparably-priced peodict from Scotland) and writes off the country as a whole.

  25. Update from Hakushu and Matsumoto:

    Hakushu Distillery had plenty of Distillers Reserve (in a special exclusive box) and 12 Year (¥8000) out front, along with Yamazaki 12 miniatures. The 12Yr was ¥1000 cheaper than the shop at the station. The also had the 300ml bottle of distillery exclusive for ¥1500 which I picked up (I got the same from Yamazaki two years ago which I enjoyed, no idea what it is!)

    We asked behind the counter about 18 and 25 Year bottles. They had a few Hakushu 18 for ¥24000, but no Hakushu or Yamazaki 25. The lady there told me they had some of both in the day before, but they don’t have them everyday and it is decided at random.

    I thought the tour was a bit of a disappointment – it was very much pitched at the whisky beginner and the guide didn’t really answer my questions about their stock and distribution, or their Cask management. The warehouse we went into was huge, but the casks weren’t dated so it was impossible to gauge what we were looking at.

    The tasting however was well put together. You get to sample an unpeated White Oak Cask and lightly peated cask (both at 50%) both of which go into the Distillers Reserve, which we had two samples of – one neat and one to make a highball. Turns out Hakushu makes a damn good highball.

    We then retired to the tasting bar where I had glasses of Yamazaki 25, Hakushu 25 and Hakushu Heavily Peated. Loved the Heavily Peated and the Hakushu 25 was good, although I didn’t notice much difference between that and the 18 (both are bottled at 43% which might explain a bit). However the Yamazaki 25 was a massive let down – it’s been sitting in Oloroso far too long. The palate was sour and the finish is sulpher and eggs. Not one to repeat.

    Onwards to Matsumoto where I found a few liquor stores between the station and Parco (about two blocks up from the station heading in the direction of the castle). One store had Nikka Pure Malt 21 for ¥17000 and two bottles of Mars Komagatake Kohiganzakura for ¥8000. The other store had Nikka Red and Black for ¥2000 but nothing else of note.

    In the evening we visited three bars in Matsumoto – Main Bar Coat, Strange Bar and Pub Mahorobi.

    Main Bar Coat is more of a cocktail bar although they’ve got the full Suntory range, a few Chichibu and some Mars Komagatake. I tried the Kohiganzakura as was debating purchasing it. It was pretty good, lightly peated in Japanese red wine casks, but didn’t stand out and since I’m juggling limited duty free space I’ve decided against it. There was plenty we didn’t get around to sampling (since I’d been drinking since midday) but I saw some single cask Chichibus and several 1980s era Komagatake.

    Strange Bar (near the river) had the Ichiro Jack of Diamonds (Cognac Cask) and tasting sets of the Yoichi and Miyagikyo “Soft and Fruity, etc” Distillery exclusives. I had a Miyagikyo 15 and a 15 Year Miyagikyo single cask.

    We saved the best till last at Pub Mahorobi – the owner was very welcoming and took us through his extensive selection of Japanese whisky. He doesn’t have any Yamazaki or Hakushu since he doesn’t actually like the stuff. Standouts were the Nikka Pure Malt 21 Port Finish (produced in 2014) and a single cask Yoichi 10 (bottled at 58%). He also has his own cask of Port Charlotte which is worth a try if you like your Islay drams. His prices were very reasonable as well.

    I would certainly recommend overnighting in Matsumoto if you’re visiting either the Mars or Hakushu Distilleries as you can combine the tours with more excellent bars.

    • Have just returned from Nagano – slim pickings there, not helped that most liquor stores were shut when we arrived on Sunday.

      The Tokyuo department store opposite Nagano Station had a few bottles of Mars Komagatake Rindo for ¥8900. There was also a liquor store next door to Dormy Inn (just up from Tokyuo) that rather promisingly had a 1986 Yamazaki Barrel stuck in the wall. However nothing of interest inside.

      Bar wise we visited Bar 599 and had an enjoyable evening talking to the owner Kenichi Kamada. I tried a few Mars bottles, including the Lucky Cat and a 1990 Sherry Single Cask, and a bottle of Chichibu Single Cask for a random department store. He had recently returned from Taiwan having visited the Kavalan Distillery and had some interesting distillery only bottles.

      Back in Tokyo and I visited the Yamaya in Toda. When I went there two years ago they had Hakushu 18 and large bottles of Ichiro Wood Wine Reserve. Pretty much empty now, although they did have Fuji Sanroku at the cheapest price I’ve seen yet so got that and a Hibiki 17 miniature for my troubles.

      Visiting the Fuji distillery tomorrow so holding out on the Distillers Select and hopefully a Single Cask to round my trip off.

      • I hadn’t read your review of the Yamazaki 25 before I posted but it is spot on. I think it would be much better if they attempted an older version of the 12Yr old recipe. At the tasting bar they had a Hibiki 17 Mizunara Cask so it must be possible to age for a long time in Japanese Oak. Likewise I’m sure they’ve got older casks in Bourbon and Puncheon (they’ve apparently got 20Yr and older port casks which appear in the Limited Editions).

  26. Visit to the Fuji Gotemba Distillery. The distillery is a ¥300 bus ride from Gotemba Station and there are direct trains from Shinjuku. Nothing of note itself in Gotemba – didn’t see any liquor stores.

    No single cask to purchase at the distillery shop anymore – I asked our guide and she said they’d run out and there wasn’t any plans to start bottling again (she wouldn’t say if there was low stock, but since they’ve replaced the widely available 18Yr Malt with the Small Batch 17Yr and hiked up the price I guess they’re in the same boat as everyone else).

    They did however have 500ml bottles of Distillers Choice Single Malt for ¥5200 (blue label – this is available via their website as well) and 200ml and 500ml of their Distillers Select Single Malt (longer/thinner bottle) for ¥4800. I purchased both, having tried the Distillers Select in the paid tasting bar earlier.

    The tour was interesting to see the production of malt and grain whisky alongside one another. However it is conducted ‘behind the glass’ and you look down on all the stages of production (and don’t visit the warehouse). The guide was also cagey on giving out details – for example she wouldn’t tell me the size of the washbacks or the fermentation time.

    Afterwards we got to sample the Sanroku 50% both neat and in a highball. I also paid extra for the Distillers Select tasting set (¥400 for both the malt and grain) and ¥1900 for the full tasting set which included the 17Yr Single Malt, NAS Pure Malt and the 25Yr Single Grain. Both Distillers Select were good, however the 17Yr Malt was underwhelming and the 25Yr Grain had a very strong glue smell on the nose. Considering the price that both are selling for, I would hesitate to purchase.

    In summary it was an interesting trip but without the reward of a Single Cask Malt not one I would necessarily do again. The tour is only in Japanese and although the tasting element was good, the tour itself was very subdued.

    • Thanks for another detailed report. Shame about the single casks not being available while you were there. I’m also not sure that some(or all) of these distillery guides are equipped to answer more detailed questions. I suspect they are given a script to memorize and anything outside of that is beyond them.
      I didn’t find any of the glue notes you mention in the 25YO Single Grain just let down by an underwhelming finish. We have a bottle of the 17YO Single Malt but not yet opened. Fortunately paid a lot less for both than they go for now.

  27. Last day in Tokyo… Tokyuo Department Store in Kichijoji had 16 bottles of Yamazaki LE 2016 at ¥10800.

    Liquors Hasegawa had plenty in but at ridiculous prices. I saw three bottles of Karuizawa at ¥500k each, and Hibiki 30 and Yamazaki 25 not far behind for ¥400k, Yamazaki and Hakushu 18 for ¥48k (all at the smaller store). The main shop had Yoichi 20 for ¥135k and the smaller one the full range of Yoichi Distillery Expressions in 500ml for ¥19800 each. Ridiculously they also had a decent number of the LE 2016 but for ¥22k. It seems that Liquors Hasegawa has totally embraced its role of providing to the Chinese Tourist… these prices are beyond those in auction so they can’t even justify the prices on the basis of people are going to flip the bottles.

    That’s it for me this trip – just holding out for some Chichibu Single Cask at Narita tomorrow morning. Wish me luck.

    • Thanks for the many detailed reports JP. Would be curious about what kinds of Chichibu you found at Narita? Please keep us updated, if you don’t mind terribly.

      • Thanks guys. Boarding in 30mins and have completed a mad dash around Terminal 1. Rewarded with two bottles of Chichibu Cask 2650 from the FaSoLa next to passport control in the South Side of Terminal 1. It is limited to one per person. There was one on the shelf as we left.

        Also saw the following in various locations:

        Yamazkura 15 Cask Strength – ¥15800
        Fuji 18Yr Old Blend Sherry Cask – ¥32000
        Mars Maltage Cosmo in Sakura Bottle – ¥5000
        A random Nikka in a Samurai Bottle – ¥5000
        Yamazaki/Hakushu 25 – ¥200k
        Hibiki 30 – ¥300k
        Yamazaki/Hakushu 18 & Hibiki 21 LE – ¥50000

        I also saw a report on Twitter from a few days ago that there were two of both types of Chichibu Single Cask in Terminal 2. The Chichibu and Fuji only appears to be available at the FaSoLa Liquor Outlets.

        Happy hunting everyone.

  28. Isetan in Shinjuku as of this past Saturday had the following:
    Taketsuru 21 (20 bottles) – 16,200
    Ichiro’s Malt Kryosata Field Balled 27th Anniversary (2 bottles) – 86,400
    Hakushu 12 (6 bottles) – 9,180
    Saburomaru 1960 – 550,00

    • That’s probably a decent price for the Taketsuru 21 these days. It’s starting to go for over ¥20,000 in the online auctions recently.

  29. So I am in the Ginza today. Mitsukoshi had their own editions of Akashi 5year, cognac cask for 14000 yen. And Yamazakura Sherry cask for about 25,000 yen.

    Found at Shinanoya a few nice items. Picked up what may be the last 2 bottles of the Akashi 5yr white wine cask for Shinanoya. Only a 340 bottle run. And Mars had a straight from the still, bottling of their new Tsunuki distillery product 60% abv for about 1900 yen for 250 ml. Another new distillery, Nagahara, had their own single malt straight from the still release at 59% abv called New Make. This was about 4400 yen, but it was 500 ml.

    Oh, BTW, Shinanoya Ginza shop now does duty free. Sadly the other shops, don’t.

    Will keep you posted on my travels.

    • Cheers! Did you buy any of the new makes? I was really impressed with the new makes from Mars a few years back…

    • To clarify, is the Akashi White Wine Cask #61091? Also, Shinanoya Shinjuku was willing to do tax free when I was there last month.

      • Yes it is cask 61091. And I know Shinjuku and Ginza are doing tax free, since they’re both in tourist heavy districts, but Meguro and other shops still won’t.

    • So first shopping day in Fukuoka, got another Shinanoya Akashi 5yr White Wine Cask that was being held for me. Also got the Mars 3yrs Komagatake Single Cask (#1485) Bourbon Barrel 58% ABV, which is also another Shinanoya Exclusive.

      Fukuoka itself had very limited pickings. Mostly Non-Age stuff, except for The Nikka 12. I did find however a TK 21 in one shop, which I grabbed without hesitation. Picked up a couple of bottles of Nikka Black that were on sale. The rest were Japanese bourbon exclusives (Blantons Straight from the Barrel, EW 12).

      Will keep you appraised.

        • I tried the 5yr Cognac cask for Mitsukoshi. Sadly wasn’t too impressed. A bit too much heat at the start and finish.

          Will try the week cask when I get back to the states.

        • I’ve opened my White Wine Cask. At first I got very similar heat to the Cognac Cask I tried at Isetan and thought ‘game over’. However I perserved with a bit of water and it got better. Before the heat there is some nice white fruit – melon, pears peaches on the nose with a bit of kick on the palate from the oak.

          Second time around I added a few drops of water and then left it sitting in a glass for 40mins. Seems to have pretty much removed the heat altogether and whilst it’s still quite young and raw, it was also rather enjoyable. I haven’t tried enough Akashi Single Casks to tell whether the heat is usual in their whisky when bottled at cask strength, or I simply got unlucky with the few I have tried.

          • Thanks for the advice.

            I didn’t notice the heat on the 8yr Sherry Olorosso cask, I got last time. Of course the blends don’t have it either.

      • Last day in Kyushu. Still really slim pickings on Japanese Whisky with a few notable exceptions.

        One store, near Fukuoka, I went into, had a bunch of Hibiki 17 for about 12,900 yen each. Also I found them for the same price at Mori Drug Stores around the countryside. I didn’t buy any since I’m still good with the supply I have from past trips, and with a weak dollar I felt it wasn’t worth it. They also had some Taketsuru 17 for 6,900 yen and a 21 for 15,600 yen (not including tax). Again, I just scored some earlier this trip for much less.

        My only takeaway from that shop was a Ceramic Decanter Tsuru 17 in perfect condition. It was about 16,000 yen. I bought the glass decanter Tsuru 17 for about 8,800 yen a few years back, so I know it’s a bit more than I had paid for previously. But these are so hard to find (they retail for over $250 online). They had a second one, for 8,800 yen. However the plastic seal was opened and the cork had broken off in 1/2 in the bottle. Another customer bought it and returned it right away after the cork broke. I was considering buying it as one to use to refill this bottle once I finished it. But the dangers of it leaking while bringing it back from overseas made me feel the risk wasn’t worth it. So it’s there for someone who really wants to simply try it in Japan.

        Anyway, have a couple more days in Tokyo before I head back. I might get lucky.

        • Just an FYI but was transiting through Singapore Changi Airport on our way to India yesterday. Had the Hibiki Harmony Master Select, Suntory Chita Grain Whisky, Hakushu Distiller’s Reserve NAS, Mars Awai Tradition NAS, Mars Awai Bourbon Casks NAS, an Akashi Blend and an Akashi Single Cask Bourbon Barrel(forgot to get the cask number). The one that interested me by was the single cask Akashi but at $SGD165 in the typical 500ml bottle, I reckon I’ll grab a bottle of bottle of Kavalan Soloist Sherry Cask they have for $SGD134 on the back home instead.
          For the curious New Delhi airport Duty Free does sell a small range of Amrut but at prices higher than I can buy them in Australia.
          Strangely enough they also have the old 500ml bottles of Single Malt Miyagikyo and Yoichi NAS for $US80 each. Also Nikka Blended Whisky NAS US$60, Nikka From The Barrel US$65 and the Nikka Pure Malts Black, White and Red Labels $US82 a pop.

          • Kavalan Soloist Sherry is a great whisky. I grabbed a bottle for about $90 USD at the Taipei airport when I left Taiwan 2 years ago and love that bottle!! Highly recommend it!!

    • Was out in the countryside of Kyushu to enjoy some Cherry Blossom watching and came across a small mom & pop liquor shop. They had hardly anything in terms of Japanese whisky. Some Four Roses bottles from about 20 years ago. But I did find one Japanese dusty. The Blend of Nikka “Selection” Malt Base Whisky. I believe this is from about 30 years ago. Bottle was intact and sealed, but no gift box to accompany it. Picked it up for about 4,000 yen.

      I know this will probably not compare to the Blend of Nikka Malt Base 17, that I found last year. But hopefully it will be something to enjoy.

      For those not in the know. Here’s what it looks like.

    • Found an old Kirin Crescent (Old bottle style from the 80’s) in a mom & pop shop today. But also today I also found a new limited release from Mars – KBP (Kumamoto Bartenders Project). Mars produced this product in association with a bunch of local Kumamoto Bartenders to help raise money after the devastating earthquake in Kumamoto last year. For those who might not know, Mars got it’s start in Kumamoto before eventually moving to Nagano.
      This seems to be a limited run of a few thousand bottles and only in select liquor shops. It appeared like I grabbed the last two off the shelves (although who knows if they still have any left). It seems though it just came out 3 days ago and it’s selling pretty quickly.

      Also, yesterday, traveled out to to the rural areas of East Kyushu and found a couple more TK 21’s and a 17 for old SRP prices (5,600 yen for the 17 and 12,300 for the 21). Found a Nikka Connexion (Malt & Rye Blend) as well, for 1,000 yen. Pretty sure it’s not much more than mixer material, but can’t go wrong for 1,000 yen for an extinct whisky blend…am I right?

    • Back in Tokyo. Shinanoya had nothing of interest, went to the Ginza, and Meguro shops.
      But I saw in Bic Camera in Yurakucho many bottles of their own private release of Akashi 5 year, limousin oak cognac cask for about 7900 yen. It’s appears to be a 1100 bottle release. I grabbed one, but I’m sure there are others to be had.

        • You may be right. I might have just assumed it was since my other Akashi pickups from Shinanoya and Mitsukoshi, were.

          Still it’s an 1100 bottle run according to the bottle.

      • I stopped by Bic Camera Yurakucho again tonight and they were down to their last two bottles of the Akashi 5yr Cognac Cask. I would guess there had been 15 to 20 when I was there on Saturday (they were keeping the actual bottles behind the counter in the original shipping boxes). FOMO made me grab another bottle even though I still haven’t tried the one I bought 3 days ago, so there’s only one left as of about 6pm today. These are already going for 12,000 yen in the online auctions…

        • Yeah, I regret only buying one myself. I went to the Shinjuku store on Sunday to see if they had any, but they had nothing.

          On the other hand I did get 3 of the Akashi 5yr white wine cask, which only had a 342 bottle run.

  30. Hi there. Long time follower – first time contributor.
    I am currently travelling through Japan and have been keeping an eye out for anything of note. Been pretty lean in Osaka and Fukuoka (only two places i have been through so far) – lots of empty Suntory display cabinets in the department stores. I am still here for anther couple of weeks so will see what i can find – particularly that i cant find back in Australia – or is half the price we pay :).
    The only thing of note i have seen is one (possibly up to four) Hibiki 21s in the basement food court at the Youme Town Yumesaito shopping complex in central Nagasaki.
    One is in a light coloured timber box with black square Hibiki 21 sticker so that’s a lock. The other three are in plan white boxes but sightly larger in size so i presume they are also 21’s. Asking price per bottle is JPY49800 (JPY53784 – which i assume is including tax). Tempting.

    • That’s not a great price for the Hibiki 21, as I saw some available in Tokyo for ¥25,000 in February, and it appears (from the comments above) that others found similarly-priced bottles around the country. In fact, the price you saw is more in-line with the jacked-up Narita duty-free price for the pretty bottle. I’m intrigued by the different packaging, though, as I have only ever seen it in the metallic reddish-purple box. If you ended up buying these, please respond and let us know if/how they differ.

        • Both are the travel bottle – the timber box was the first edition and (if you’re interested in flipping it) commands a higher price at auction. The white sleeve contains a black box with the second edition. You can still get the second edition at Narita for ¥50000 but haven’t seen the timber box for several years.

  31. Just got back from Tokyo. Nothing much at Isetan or Takashimaya Shinjuku. Didn’t make it to Shinanoya on account of two struggling kids. Picked up a bottle of Kurayoshi for ¥12.9k at Bic Shinjuku… figured it wasn’t pricey for the novelty even if it’s in fact a Scotch. Visited Fuji-Gotemba and bought the 17yo Small Batch for ¥27k. Stupid money but it was basically a tourist souvenir. Decent whisky but not worth the money if we are just talking based on taste – wife actually egged me on to buy it, how rare is that!? Very cheap Yamazaki 12 miniatures at Tokyu Hands at Shinjuku. 50ml for ¥700. Frankly the best buys I saw were the Springbank 18 and the Hazelburn 12 at Bic. Scotch, good Scotch is still pretty cheap in Japan…

    Oh and the reason for the erratic supply as someone said above is entirely down to demand exceeding supply so you will get stores flushed with supply when stock comes in and droughts in between. Right now they are only supplying the local market so forget about getting a decent price internationally unless you get very lucky…

  32. Hey everyone, been following the thread for a while now but I’m a first time contributor. I’m in Tokyo right now but haven’t had any luck. All I’ve seen is a Kurayoshi Sherry Cask 8 year. I’m staying near the Tokyo station for the next two nights so hopefully I find something good before I head back! Really hoping for a couple of Hibiki 17/21! Do let me know if you guys have found anything decent around this area!

    • I wish you a lot of luck. But having been there just recently, it was difficult. My suggestions are to keep checking Shinanoya Ginza + Shibuya + Shinjuku every day, Bic Camera Yurakucho and Liquors Hasegawa every day to see if something came in. You just never know when something will show up.

  33. So just got back from Tokyo/sendai and it was not the best haul ever, but I found a gem or two. Isetan shinjuku still has the Akashi cognac cask, and it’s available to try as well. It didn’t sit well with me, but it was interesting to taste it (didn’t buy a bottle). The mars Tsunagu blend is available still as well, and they also had the new make, 6 month and 1 year from Mars. I tried the tsunagu, which is a 70% grain and 30% malt blend, and it was surprisingly good for the price (about 70$ bottle). They also still had the 15 year old sherry cask yamazakura for about 34000¥, which I did not end up getting. Oh, and salon de shimaji has a blended yamazaki mizunara (three mizunara barrels from 1980,1982,1990) to try for 5400¥ a pour, and it’s totally worth it. They wouldn’t let me buy a bottle, but I’ll come back to taste some more on my next visit! Away from Tokyo and near Sendai is where I got lucky. I was in this little town called Furukawa, and my hunting snagged me a mars 25 year old komagatake sherry cask #1067 – for around 320$! I was pretty happy with that and probably my best find in the last 6 months. As a general note, I didn’t see any yamazaki 18 or hakushu 18, and hibiki 21 is still easy to find for around 25000¥

  34. Hi guys! Does anyone know where I could get my hands on a bottle of Fuji Gotemba single grain whisky in Australia? Or somewhere online that will post to Australia? Thanks!

  35. First time posting, just arrived in Tokyo a few days ago and briefly looked around for some yamazaki whiskey for my father in law. Was planning on going to Shinano-ya in Ginza thanks to this thread, but after shopping at Matsuya deptartment store, I looked at the liquor dept right next to the tax free center. They actually had Yamazaki 25 and Yamazaki 18. Bought a couple 18, looks like they have plenty more. Stopped by Mitsukoshi afterwards, just to check, and no Yamazaki, but got some nice selection of others.

  36. This is such a great thread…I will be traveling to Tokyo next month and i am hoping to find a decent bottle that I can buy that I wont be able to find home in New Jersey. Any suggestions from you the experts of what I should aim for. Is the Mars Whisky Komagatake of the Nature of Shinshu series a good buy? I read about this bottle at a different website.

    • If you can find it for less than 10,000 yen, it’s worth buying. Not more than that. I saw them in Fukuoka at Mitsukoshi department store, for 8,800 yen, but that was months ago.

    • You should survey the duty free shop first thing when you land at airport. Snap any Chichibu single cask you can find there. Mars Komagatake Rindo/Kohiganzakura are great but likely not available from primary market anymore by now. Good luck

      • Please correct me if I am mistaken, but you can’t enter the Duty Free Shop in Narita upon arrival, only if you are connecting internationally or when you depart.

  37. Lots of Hakushu 12, a few Hakushu 18 at Yamaya Liquor, Sendai. Found Yamazaki LE 2017 at a small liquor store just outside Sendai station. 3 bottles on shelf when I left (10,800y).

    • Went to Yamaya store near Hilton. Only had no vintage bottle (1923?) n 50ml versions of 12 yr
      Lady said 750 ml bottles sold out. Checked at Hilton n last time at duty free they did not have (NRT)

    • Hi,
      My take is that it has no investment potential at all unless for some bizarre reason someone has a thing for Scottish whisky bottled and labelled in Japan.

          • I appreciate the honesty, one more if you do t mind, Kirin Whisky Fuji – Sanroku?

          • How much can the Kirin cost! Seriously, 10-15 bucks in Japan? At worst if you don’t like it and the old version was decent enough, you could use it for highballs!

          • Maybe I would not be quite so harsh but the current Suntory Chita Grain NAS is inferior to expressions that have gone before and the current Miyagikyo NAS is inferior to the 500ml version that went before. Hmmm, ok the Chita is more likely to work as floor polish/wood stain : )

          • In all seriousness, they’re not worth the money. Chita is around US$40 in Tokyo, and the NAS Miyagikyo is US$80 for 750 ml in my local bottle shop. I found the former inferior to the comparably-priced Suntory Toki (itself not worth the effort of seeking out), while the latter was perfectly nondescript. The NAS Taketsuru ($65 at my local) represents far better quality for the price.

            If you want some detailed tasting notes, mine are available here:




  38. Good Morning All,
    (I thought I’d posted this on Saturday just gone – apparently not?! Apologies for delay)
    Back in Japan as of about a week ago. Was in Hiroshima yesterday and day before. A quick trip to Fukuya, Sogo, etc didn’t offer very much indeed – departo sure seems to have v slim pickings. In fact, Fukuya still had the Nikka 25 at ¥75,000 (tax free) that I saw in January this year (that started this thread).
    I did stumble across a liquor store not far from Hondori which offered a good array:
    – Hibiki 17 @ ¥16,800 (only one on shelf)
    – Yamazaki 12 @ ¥11,800
    – Yamazaki 18 @ ¥47,800 (only one on shelf)
    – Nikka 21 @ ¥27,500 (a couple on shelf)
    – Nikka 17 @ ¥15,800 (a couple on shelf)
    (Both the Nikka’s didn’t come in boxes)

    Cheers All

    • martin thank you for the update. on the yamazaki 12 how many bottles did you see? also is yamazaki 12 difficult to come by ?

      • Hi there, I can’t recall how many Yamazaki 12’s there were sorry! Perhaps only the one?
        In my experience, any Age Statements seem hard to find!
        As an aside – I’ve seen Y12 here in Australia (limited supply) at Dan Murphy’s for $200.

        Anyone anticipate any Hibiki 17 (or 21) becoming available again in Australia? Dan Murphy did have limited availability but that was maybe 2 or 3 years ago?

        • To add a bit of color: my local beverage emporium here in Chicago got a fresh batch of Yamazaki 12 Years Old last month, with 6 bottles on the shelf at US $90. They also routinely have Hakushu 12 Years Old available for $80. This is a mega wine and liquor store with 38 locations in the area. All this to say: there are clearly stocks of the age statement whiskies in the global supply chain, and they appear to be getting allocated to the bigger customers.

          As noted above, I also found Hibiki 21 Years Old on a store shelf in Tokyo back in February, and it seems that others had the same luck. We saw a few bottles of 21 here in Chicago for $250, but that was more than a year back and there hasn’t been any since.

          The only thing you can do is keep pounding the pavement with your eyes peeled!

  39. Hi, whisky hunters! I’ve got two quick questions. First, where is the best place to buy miniatures 5cl or 18cl of Yamazaki 12, Hakushu 12, Hibiki 17, Nikka Taketsuru in Osaka? Second, did someone get across Ichiro’s Malt Wine Wood Reserve in any store? Thank you for help in advance!

  40. In Osaka for the day and popped in whatever stores I could find in between Dotonbori & Shinsaibashisuji what I came across

    Ichiro malt double distilleries ¥9800
    Ichiro malt mizunara wood reserve ¥8980
    Ichiro malt wine wood reserve ¥15000
    Nikka Date ¥3800
    Nikka 12yr ¥4980
    Yamazaki 12yr ¥12800
    Yamazaki LE 2016 ¥17800
    Yamazaki LE 2017 ¥17800

  41. So here’s what I was able to purchase on my recent trip from Roppongi ( trip was from Aug 5th – Aug 17th).

    The Ichiro’s malt double distilleries, Mizunara wood, Wine wood reserve I was able to get for 6000 yen each. The Ichiro’s white label malt and grain I purchased for 3600 yen. Bought 2 of these bottles. This particular store even had the Fuji-Gotemba 18 yr small batch, but was selling for 22,000 yen. This particular store called Mizuhashi, was 5 minutes from Villa Fontaine Roppongi, which is the hotel I was staying in.

    Another store in Roppongi, don’t remember the name, but the location was across a bar called the Milwaukee bar. This store was probably the highlight of my Japanese whisky hunting trip; they had the following:

    Miyagikyo Single Malt 12 and Yoichi 10 yr. Both for 28,000 yen. I bought the Miyagikyo Single Malt 12. This store also had a particular special Yamazaki bottling (no aged stated, but was not the limited edition), for about 52,000 yen. Definitely a special bottling. Was tempted to pick up, but wasn’t sure what kind of bottling it was. They also had the The limited ed. Yamazaki 2015-2017. Bought the 2017 limited ed. based on the nice review I read here. I also bought Springbank 18 for 12,000 yen, which is incredibly cheap coming from Los Angeles.

    The Yamazaki 18 I saw at Liquor Mountain Roppongi went for 48,000 yen, and the Hibiki 21 went for 37,000 yen. Was tempted to buy both, especially the Yamazaki 18, but the price point for the Yama 18 was just too much. I was thinking hard about purchasing Hibiki 21, but just didn’t want to pull the trigger. Was hoping to find a place outside of Roppongi, but just didn’t have enough time.

    Upon visiting the Chichibu distillery, I went with a group to a particular shop which carried the Akashi White Oak 5 yr Single Malt Limousin Oak Cognac Cask: 10,500 yen, and Akashi Single Malt Bourbon Cask 4yr for 10,000 yen. Bought both.

    A Shinanoya, which I think I visited near Ginza, (it was underground) had the Akashi White Oak 8 yr Single Malt Oloroso Sherry Cask: 10,500 yen. Bought this one.

    Don Quixote had the following:
    Yama and Hakushu 12: about 11,500 yen each
    Taketsuru 17 for 6900 yen
    Didn’t purchase any of these.

    Ended up instead buying 6 small Yama 12 yr shot bottles for I think 600 yen each at a Bic Camera in Akihabara of all places. Planning on giving these as gifts to friends.

    Finally, I bought an old pulteney 21 from Liquors Hasegawa for 13,700 yen.

    So basically, as others have said, just walk around and search for those smaller stores, and you may come across something you may like! Tokyo isn’t as ‘dry’ as one may believe.


    • Sorry for the late reply but great report! I definitely would have picked up a couple of Taketsuru 17 for that price which is basically what it was selling for 8 years ago.

      • Trust me; I was very much tempted to purchase a couple of bottles of the 17, but if I didn’t own a bottle of the Taketsuru 21, I would have purchased! And yes, those are prices that are hard to beat.

    • Thanks for the update. May I know which Don Quixote branch that you visited? Will be visiting Tokyo and Osaka in Oct. Hope to pick up some Taketsuru 17. Thanks!

  42. Hey guys,

    My sister is heading over to Japan next week. I’m arming her with a couple of sample glass bottles to get a few single measures of whisky for me to try – I’m particularly on the lookout for
    the Chichibu Kusada that was released in June. If anyone knows any bars around Shinjuku or Ikebukuro that has a bottle please shout!

    Also does anyone know what the Chichibu Single Cask at duty free is? I got a bottle of cask 2650 back in March. Is there a new single bottling out?

    Thanks in advance!

    • I am also interested in the question about the current Chichibu Single Cask offering at Narita. As there were only 293 bottles of #2650 (and I know where four of them are) I would suspect they’ve moved on by now. Any info would be much appreciated!

  43. Hello – I am heading to Tokyo, Karuizawa, Matsumoto, Takayama, Kanazawa in Sept 15. Planning to get Hibiki 17 and Hibiki 21. Any idea which area should give me the best bet to get these two bottles? I have a lot of liquor store name and Discount store but am still clueless as to how to get there? Also anyone knows if those bottles at discount store (BIC, Donki) are the same (not fake) as the ones from the liquor store or department store? Thanks in advance – Olivia

    • Just finished a quick trip. The following leads for cheap Hibiki harmony: Anything Liquor and Cheap in Shin Okubo had the cheapest at 5000 per bottle. The small store next to Liquor Mountain in Shinjuku Kabukicho had that and 21 year for 480000. I just stopped in Ueno. Ueno BottleOff has a regular stock of Japanese whisky. Here is the current listing Yamazaki 12, 18, and 25 years. Yamazaki select 2014, 2015, 2017. Hibiki 17, 17 nonchilled, 21, 30 year and 17 year nips. Hakushi 18, 25. They also have some rarer bottles but I was in a rush. If there is interest I can check back tomorrow. Keep in mind while visiting BottleOff green labels are bought from private owners. Blue is regular stock. And in a weird weird find, I think I saw an ancient bottle of Suntory red in Shimo Kitazawa

      • Kimura San – thank you so much for getting back to me. At Ueno Bottle Off – how much do they charge for Hibiki 17 & 21 (including Tax)? Do you know if they are in Blue labels or not?

        It is so funny that I have asked Visa Signature to locate a bottle for me. They came back saying they couldn’t get one claiming that these are rare bottles and none of the liquor stores will disclose the inventory status to them.

        Thanks for your help

    • Hi Olivia, I was in Matsumoto earlier this year and posted my findings above – there was a decent amount of Mars Shinso bottling but little else (found a couple of good small liquor stores along with the department stores there).

      If you are spending the evening in Matsumoto make sure you visit Bar Strange (basically someone’s front room but a very good selection of Miyagikyo whiskies and still has some of the Hanyu Card Series) and Pub Maharobi. If you only have time for one then I’d make it Maharobi. Temei-san is incredibly knowledgeable and welcoming and has a brilliant selection.

      • Hello everyone – I am happy to report that we just bought Hibiki 21 at Liquor Momosoe in Matsumoto at 27000 yen

        I have asked Visa Signature Concierge and Amex Concierge service. Amex did a great job and was able to locate Hibiki 17 in Karuizawa at 18000 yen.

        The reson why we got the Hibiki 21 was from the help of our hotel concierge. I highly recommend utilizing this service if you are going to stay at a hotel

        • Good price on the 21YO maybe not quite so good on the 17YO. Congrats and if you haven’t tried the 21YO before let us know what you think when you’ve opened the bottle…..

  44. My 2nd day in Japan (Fukoka), and first day of doing actual Whisky Hunting.

    Man is it bleak.

    I went to 3 Department Stores, 8 Liquor Shops, Bic Camera and a couple of my secret places (where they sometimes have something rare) and there was absolutely nothing of worth at any of them. Even the Yamazaki NAS was non-existent. My best takeaway was a bottle of Nikka From the Barrel for about 2,100 yen. Couldn’t find that anywhere else.

    I can only assume that the summer travelers have pillaged this city. As I would guess any other city in Japan.

    They did open up a new Liquor Express in Nakasu, where they had some more interesting items, but as with all Liquor Expresses, it w

    I’m here for a few weeks, so hopefully there might be some re-supply shipments while I’m around. In the meantime, I’m heading out to the rural areas to try and find me some dusties and rarer finds. Wish me luck

    • I just replied to the comment above yours. I had a lot of luck hitting a few random stores, but just suggesting the Ueno BottleOff if you can make it to Tokyo. i walked straight down from Okubo to Shibuya and stopped at a few places. If you are looking in Tokyo i can help a bit but I leave on the 5th.

      • I’ll be in Tokyo in a few weeks. Thanks for the advice.
        Until then, I’ll check around Kyushu. Who knows, but I’ll post any finds here.

    • New day, and a little bit better luck in Fukuoka city. Got a Hibiki 17 for 12,800 and a TK 21 for 15,000. Also picked up one of Mars’ New Pot Heavily Peated from the Tsunuki distillery for 1,800 yen. Still nothing exciting except that Chichibu Port Pipe Exclusive from Isetan, when it arrives.
      Tomorrow, I’m going out to the Styx of Kyushu to see what I might find.

    • Scored my first interesting bottle. Mars Malt Le Papillon, single cask 4 year. 58% about. Bourbon Barrel cask #5111. Distilled at Shinshu and aged at the Tsunuki distillery cellar. About 10,000 yen.

      I’m assuming it’s a blend. But of what?

      Maybe my luck is turning around.

      • If it’s the same one I saw this at Shinanoya earlier this year (Butterfly on the label) then I believe it is a Mars single malt rather than a blend.

        • Yes, it is. Did you pick one up?

          I just assumed because it said Mars Malt, as opposed to Mars Komagatake, I figured it was a blend.

        • Chichibu has more of a name (at least Ichiro’s Malt does), so they can charge more.

          Despite the fact that Mars has been in business for a far a long time, they’ve haven’t had the success of Akuto-san. Nor have they received the recognition, globally. Akuto-san was also smart to do a lot of private releases for different bars and liquor shops in Japan, which I’m sure helped to get his name out in front of Mars.

          Mars Shinshu is finally starting to release a pretty good product (I’m comparing it to The Revival 2011), that I think it will eventually come into it’s own in time. But their Marketing needs to improve. They need to do more than just ride the wave of Japanese whisky popularity and explain why their brand is worthwhile. The Tsunuki distillery we’ll have to wait and see on, but it’s good they’re expanding. Hopefully they can become a mini-major in the years to come.

          • Hi Tommy,
            Don’t mean to speak(though I will : )) for Metaman, but he is well versed in Mars Whisky and knows as much about Japanese Whisky in general as anyone.
            Thanks for adding the link : )

          • I should have said I know why from a several different angles, when what I meant was quality wise. For mine(and recognizing Chichibu it still a relatively young distillery) the Chichibu product is just as hit and miss as new Mars stuff. I’ll add straight up that if it was based just upon taste preferences I would prefer to collect and drink Mars( all ages) over Karuzizawa. Beyond that I think Mars whisky is just cooler that Karuizawa and Hanyu : )
            Always appreciate your input Metaman!

          • Hi Tommy,

            As Dramtastic said, I’m quite familiar with Mars. Been collecting their single malts since 2014. I have the all of the memories of Shinshu releases and a few other special releases. I think they’ve steadily improved over the last 3 years, and I quite enjoy their product (short of the cheap stuff).

            Dramtastic, if you posited that 3 years ago, I would have disagreed. I still have a soft spot for the Karuizawa’s and the Hanyu’s, but Mars is steadily improving. I wish their brand ambassador/distributor in the US knew what he was doing, I knew more than he did when they had a tasting in my area. They’re doing fine selling their Iwai here for significant markup (compared to the incredibly low JP price), but if they want to be with the big-boys, they need to really start pushing their single malt bottles with a lot more finesse.

            I’m not a huge Macallan fan (I like some of their Sherry releases), but boy do they know how to sell a product, even when its shit (AKA Rare Cask). Mars needs to think about where they want to be in 3 years. Hopefully not just peddling Iwai to the US Market.

          • Hi Meta,

            I guess beyond Mars new stuff I am talking about their aged stuff as well.
            I would assume that it is a matter of record that I think that Karuizawa is the most overrated whisky distillery not only in Japan, but in the world of whisky.
            Hanyu, well I commented I think Mars whisky is cooler but I would not say necessarily better overall(just a lot cheaper).
            But what do we really know about the aspirations of Hanyu when it started distilling whisky. So many of the casks that were preserved by Akuto-san have been tinkered with by Akuto-san i.e finishing casks. Generally my favorite Hanyu have been straight bourbon cask matured. IMO, many of the finished casks of Hanyu aren’t great(compared to current high prices) and are designed to cover up the sins of the first cask?

            Interesting comparison with the Marketing machine of Macallan.
            Firstly, I have’ as you may have, met some of the peeps from Mars in Japan. They are very proud(history) and enthusiastic about their product. We have the same situation in Australia. You can buy as many Mars whisky here as you can Suntory Whisky but it seems more that the distributor has the most sway trading on the current whisky darling Japan without anyone really knowing what the hell they are selling.
            Went to Whisky Live Brisbane 2 weekends ago and attended to the Master Classes. I as you are, are not a big Macallan fan but The Macallan Rep just new how to sell the shit out of the brand. Enough for me to be ready to pull the trigger on a cask strength Macallan we tasted once the bottling is available for retail sale.

      • Anyone who is in Japan now or the very near future keep a look out for the Chichibu IPA Cask Finish. This is the OB 57.5%abv just released. I just secured a bottle less local Japanese tax for 11,000 Yen.

        • I heard about that from my source, he said he’s going to score me one as well.

          But if I see one on my own, I’d happily pick up 2 for that price.

    • Today was a very good day for dusty hunting. I traveled around SAGA prefecture looking in all kinds of shops. Most had nothing of worth. I wasn’t expecting to find anything new & exciting, but I found some good and a few very nice dusties.

      One shop I was able to pick up 2 x Akashi 8 year Sherry Casks (500ml) for about 9,000 yen each. They’re not dusties, but still out of circulation and hard to get.

      Another tiny shop had the Suntory Royal 12 year 360ml 1/2 size bottles (2 with boxes and 2 without). I picked up 4 of them at 1,500 yen each. I’m guessing they’re either from the 80’s or 90’s (no web address on the packaging).

      Another shop had the Nikka Kingsland Premier for about 3,500 yen, without box, but the funny thing was that another store had the Kingsland box without the bottle. I asked to buy the box off of them, but they gave it to me for free, since I purchased several nice Bourbons (Japanese only releases) from their establishment.

      My biggest catch of the day was Suntory 1981 Kioke Shikomi, with box, for 3,500 yen at a mom & pop shop. Dramtastic already reviewed this bottle and it wasn’t to his liking, but it’s still considered to essentially be a Hakushu 24 with possibly some Yamazaki 24 blended in the mix. The big difference with this bottling is that it was aged in a sake wooden tub. Considering that this discontinued bottle is selling for $500 to $700 overseas, I’m more than happy to pay essentially $32 USD for what may be a mediocre 24 year blend.

      I also picked up several dusty bourbons and a unusual Springbank 9 year Bourbon & Marsala Wood Expression (only 2,200 bottles produced) from 2006. So all-in-all it was probably my most productive day whisky hunting so far.

      BTW: Due to the shortage of actual new aged Japanese whiskies a lot more stores are selling the fake Japanese, Kurayoshi whisky. Even the mom & pop shops are carrying it. Wonder if the Japanese know it’s not even real Japanese whisky?

      • Some cool finds at good prices!
        I did a bit of quick research and as for the age of the Suntory 1981 Kioke Shikomi and from drinking a bottle I cannot believe it would be anything like a 24YO…..
        The only reference I could see for an age of 24YO was from a rip off(price wise) online re-seller.
        Still……incredible price in the current market! Please post your review if you ever open it.

    • Today was a mixed bag, but I felt like I got a double gut punch. Went two several liquor shops and department stores but all of them had nothing of worth.

      I finally went to one of my favorite liquor shops who I have frequented for many years, the good news was that they had over two cases worth of Ichiro’s IPA and even a hibiki 21. The bad news was every IPA bottle was spoken for. And next to the the Hibiki 21 the price tag said “ask” where previously it was listed at SRP of 24,000 yen. When I asked, the shop owner told me it was now 30,000 yen. I don’t like it when retailers say “ask” about a price. It means it’s fluid and can change on a whim. I think I got the Gaijin price. It’s still not as expensive as the US price or Duty free, or even what they charge in Tokyo at some shops (I’m looking at you Liquors Hasegawa), but if you want to charge 30,000 yen then just put it on the price tag. I bought it, just because I haven’t found much of anything else, except the dusties from yesterday.

  45. Just in case anyone is interested Isetan currently has a couple of web exclusives on their Japanese website. There’s a Chichibu 5Yr Port Pipe for ¥27k and a Akashi 5Yr Chardonnay Cask for ¥14k.

    There was also a Chichibu bourbon Barrel which has already sold out but the other two are still in stock.

    • Are you able to supply the direct link for that? Actually if you could also advise how and international resident can register. It is not a service I have used before. Jumped onto their online store and gave up as I kept coming up against road blocks.

        • Thanks for the quick reply but I was also editing my previous response with the following as I did manage to find that link.
          “Actually if you could also advise how and international resident can register. It is not a service I have used before. Jumped onto their online store and gave up as I kept coming up against road blocks.

          • Its tricky – I gave up andI asked my sister to do it as she speaks Japanese and has an account set up with Isetan already. I did manage to register an account myself as well however – had to use Google Chrome which automatically translated the page.

            When registering you will need the Kanji of your name as well as English spelling (Google for nearest equivalent) and make your phone number look like a Japanese one. I’ve ordered it to an address in Japan but they do accept foreign credit cards and will post overseas.

          • Appreciated! Will give it another crack tomorrow as I used chrome when finding the link.

          • Unfortunately just can’t open the link to add an international address. Obviously there must be a way but just not for me at this stage.
            Thanks again

          • I think the Isetan and Mitsukoshi sites won’t let you order if it detects an overseas IP address. I once tried ordering from the US with no luck, but had no problems here in Japan.

            If you can get to a proxy server with a JP address, you might be able to bypass this issue.

          • Thanks, wasn’t sure if I wanted the bottling’s currently on offer but more for something that tickled my fancy down the track. I can probably get through a third party contact in Japan but will cost a bit more with commission.
            In the meanwhile picked up a bottled of Mars Tsunuki Aging and a bottle of the Akashi Cognac Cask for Y7000 less than less than one bottle of that Chichibu Port Pipe.

  46. Hello – Heading to Tokyo and Kanazawa in a weeks time…. can someone recommend a few good whisky bars? Frankly, we are newbies in whisky so hopefully the bar owners will be friendly and willing to guide us

    Thank You

    • Do you mean for whisky in general or just Japanese whiskies?
      I’d also ask what your whisky background/experience is as it will assist in recommendations.

        • You can also check out some on these lists

          The newish You can scroll through the menu of whisky’s on their website which also shows prices. Japanese whisky is towards the bottom of the whisky menu.
          A couple of other links that include some of the classic whisky bars in Tokyo, most will have at least some Japanese whisky

          One thing I think I can say with confidence is that the Bar scene in Tokyo is like no where in the world whether for quality or quantity. Beyond the places listed in the links I recommend just walking into any bar that says whisky and checking out what they have. I for instance have drunk many Japanese whiskies in the Bar Hermits on the western side of Shinjuku station and they aren’t shown on any of the links.
          I have also been in plenty of bars run by cool owners with no common spoken language but enthusiasm for whisky and had great times. I will also advise that it is common for bars to have a seating charge, which is kind of a Japanese version of a tip and will often include some nibbles. Bars usually advise you what the charge is before you decide to order. Usually the charge is around 600-1000 yen.

      • Hi – my Japanese whisky background is zero…lol

        My husband and I had a tasting at Ritz Carlton last year (yamasaki 12, Hakushu 12 and Hibiki 17) although we think Hakushu i12 was not bad but we fellin love with Hibiki 17.

        Thats how it all begin….. yeah we are a baby

        • If you go to Bar Zoetrope, try the Taketsuru flight for a comparison. Or, if you want to act like an insider ask for a shot of the Ichiro’s Malt Zoetrope 3rd anniversary bottle from the Hanyu distillery. It’ll probably cost you about 2,000 to 2,500 yen. But it’s something else.

    • In Shinjuku,Bar Zoetrope’s owner, Horigami-San, speaks English, he’s somewhat friendly, when it’s not crowded and he’s overwhelmed. Come early, it’s a small place, andonce it’s full he won’t let you wait for an opening.
      Bar radio in Aoyama owner speaks a little English and he’s friendly. Not a huge collection of Japanese whisky, and a bit pricey. But much quieter and easy to get a seat.

      • Yep, you have got to catch Horigami-San in the right mood especially if he does not know you. He gets a lot of foreigners in his joint so can come off sometimes as being a bit jaded and disinterested. Still Zoetrope is an institution in regards to Japanese whisky bars and was the place I tasted my first Japanese whisky. My recommendation is just go straight for one of the tasting sets. My first set had 3 Suntory and 3 Nikka and depending on your re-action to those Horigami-San can recommend from there. Be aware that many bars in Japan close on Mondays including Zoetrope. As mentioned by Metaman get there early I recommend at opening 7PM.

  47. I’m seeing the news this morning of the soon-to-be-released Yamazaki 18 Years Old Mizunara Cask ( Bottled at a pleasing 48%. MSRP is a not-pleasing US$1,000.

    I’ll be in Tokyo in the end of November. I don’t expect too many of these bottles to still be hanging around but if anyone has any guidance on a likely place to find one, I’m all ears?

    More generally, I am enjoying the vicarious thrill of the hunt via all the new posts here. Thanks for all the great reports, friends- please keep them coming!

    • Thanks for posting this. Yep there is plenty of online chatter about this, 1500 bottles and the date I hear of release is 3rd of October. I have at least one bottle(I’d have to go through the stash) of the NAS Mizunara cask. Doubt if I paid more than 150-200 bucks for that.
      1000 bucks is of coarse a bit rich for an 18YO whisky but you know they will be 2 grand within a few days of release and 3 grand plus within a month…

  48. Collectors of limited edition Mars Komagatake single malt series take note. The 3rd series just released in Japan now. Consisting of 20 YO malts aged in Sherry and American white oak bourbon barrel. Grab before stock out. Cheers

    • Thanks for the tip.

      Any idea where to find it? Do you know what it retails for?

      I’m in Fukuoka till Saturday and Tokyo till next Wednesday..

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