Buying Japanese Whisky in Japan 2019 Report

The 2018 report was once again the most viewed post on the Japanese Whisky Review. Not surprising that given the Japanese Whisky drought, even more folks are keen to know where and when stuff is available. Comments were up by almost 200 on the 2017 report with 631 vs 433. A big shout out to all those who commented, especially the regulars!
I think we all know 2019 will be at least as tough buying Japanese Whisky in Japan as 2018 but every contribution counts so please keep the comments coming this year. I know from personal experience I was able to grab a number of bottles in 2018 that I would have missed out on if readers hadn’t advised of pending releases!
Brian AKA Dramtastic

61 thoughts on “Buying Japanese Whisky in Japan 2019 Report

  1. Anybody get luck on the Mars Bottle Lottery? I won (the opportunity to buy) a Mars Double Cellars 2019. I purchased it, but I have a feeling it will be available in Fukuoka when I get there in May (probably cheaper, too).

    • Didn’t even know there was a lottery. Funny that it was for the Double Cellars. Would have thought a lottery would be for something like the latest Mars Le Papillon which is a single cask and only 464 bottles, where the Double Cellars is 3659 bottles. At any rate I’d ordered the 2019 Double Cellars back in January and I’m paying Y8000. Just waiting for my allocation of a bottle of the latest Le Papillon before I have them and a couple of bottles of the Akkeshi Mizunara Cask shipped home.
      The new Le Papillon should be interesting as it is from a sherry butt and I think most of us that have had some experience with Mars Whisky, have found the sherry cask offering’s more hit and miss than their American White Oak and Bourbon Cask offering’s.

      • The Le Papillion was also in the lottery. No luck on that one. There was a 3rd bottle as well, I forgot, but it was one of the more larger produced bottles like the Double Cellars.

        • There were 4 separate lotteries in total.

          Double Cellars 2019
          Tsunuki Aging 2018
          Le Papillion bottled in Aug 2018 (previous release)
          Le Papillion mentioned above

          I entered for all of them and won (the opportunity to buy) nothing.

          • Not sure if anyone else knows of these but I also managed to secure
            Mars Single Cask Komagatake 2012 6YO cask 1493 50 ppm 60%
            Mars Komagatake Yakushima aging 2015-2019 58%’
            Ichiro’s Malt & Grain Japanese Blended Whisky Limited Edition 2019 is due to be released within the next couple of weeks or so.

      • Have you tried the Mars sherry cask put out a couple years ago by Mitsukoshi Isetan?

        I took a quick look through your posted reviews but couldn’t find it.

        • Have a bottle but haven’t opened yet. Also have a bottle of it’s counter part the Super Heavily Peated which has been opened, just haven’t written up any tasting notes yet.

    • Bought a double cellars at shinanoya last week, didn’t even know there was a lottery! Haven’t seen the two other bottles around though

  2. New Komagatake from ePower available for order on their website. I think this was the one they were selling at the Chichibu Matsuri.

    Vatting of a Bourbon barrel selected by ePower and an American White Oak cask selected by Bar Barns. Looks like they’re just under 5 years old.

    Max 2 per person. I don’t think they ship outside Japan and payment options are limited to bank transfer or COD.

  3. Hi All,
    Haven’t posted for a while, but have been back to Japan quite a few times since last time. This trip is winding up and we’ve just left Takayama. Stumbled across a liquor store with bountiful supplies of age statements (Hibiki 12, 17, 21 / Yamazaki/ Hakashu / etc). They had miniatures as well as ?180 ml? bottles of some (like Hibiki 17). They had signs everywhere re no photography so I didn’t take photo. I did note that:
    Hibiki 21 priced at ¥69,800
    Hibiki 17 smaller bottle ¥29,800
    Hibiki 17 miniature ¥5,980
    Location/directions in case of use to anyone:
    – exit east from Takayama Station
    – turn left to head north
    – go past Takayama Nohi Bus Center along footpath for perhaps 200-300 metres and you’ll see the liqueur store on your left

  4. Akashi Tequila Cask is an interesting one for me – lots of ripe pineapple fruits and long layers of finish. I have not experimented with drops of water yet but intend to do so.

  5. Pro Tip: Be polite and humble when you ask the owner/cashier if they have any of the good stuff in the back. Shops in Japan still regularly do get Yamazaki Nas, 12, 18, Hibiki Blender’s choice, 21, Hakushu Nas, 18, Chichibu Limited Edition, White, Red, Green, and Gold Leaves and sell for retail price. However, they are almost always hidden in the back storage and reserved for VIP customers and locals. So often I see foreigners barge into the shop and rudely ask/demand for Japanese whisky. They probably have no idea they are being loud and rude, but this type of gesture will get you nowhere in Japan and is hugely frowned upon. Especially these days with such high demand, a lot of shops really dislike dealing with rude foreigners.

    With that said, Shinanoya Ginza just got in about a dozen Chichibu World Limited Editions. As I mentioned above, they store it in the back. The male cashier that’s kinda short and has long hair really dislikes foreigners. Saw so many tourists ask and get rejected, when I saw him holding plenty of stock in the back! Good luck…

    • And, of course they’re already appearing on the auction sites for double the price.

      If it goes like it did last year, people in Japan in late February / early March may be able to (briefly) find these on the shelf at the actual stores.

  6. Hombo Shuzo (i.e. Mars) has redone their online store.

    In the last year or two they seem to have switched to selling their whisky primarily on their Rakuten store front rather than their own store, but maybe they will switch back after this ‘renewal’. Nothing new there as of yet, however.

    Anyone who had an account on their old shop needs to reset their password.

  7. I will be going to Niseko, but will go by Nikka in Yoichi to pick up some Peaty & Salty and anything else that looks good. I’ll follow up on that.
    I will also be in Tokyo for a couple of days. I’ll hit the usual spots but I want to be sure to bring home a bottle of Hibiki 21. It looks like I could get a bottle through Amazon or a Rakuten store for around 55K. Are there any issues with having it delivered to a hotel?
    Are there any better options?

    • Just got back from my visit to Niseko, Yoichi, and Tokyo.

      If you are skiing and want to pick something up in Niseko, the Seiko Mart has Yamazaki & Hak NAS for 8,000 (yikes) and Miyagikyo for around 4500. I had a bottle of Hibiki 21 from a Rakuten shop for 50k delivered to my hotel, which worked nicely. Use Chrome with the Translate extension.

      In Yoichi, I go mainly for the tastings of the 10 year old single casks (this time, #409293, Released Sept 21, 2018) on my visits. Where else can you have a shot of such great whisky at 1000y ?

      The gift shop had the tasting sets (got a couple of the Salty and Peaty ) and the 2000’s (got 2) in the 180 ml format for around 2800 yen. I also bought a 180 ml bottle of the 12 year old Apple Brandy, but have not tasted yet. They had a new distillery exclusive NAS blend that was on offer for around 6000 yen. I could sort out that it was mainly comprised of Yoichi whiskies, but that is about it. Nikka 12 and Tsuru 17 (12K), and all other NAS’s were also available.

      In Tokyo, I went to Liquor Mountain (tasted Hibiki Blenders Choice, but not for sale) and Shinanoya in Ginza (had some old bottles but pricey), the Big BIC Camera (no minatures) near Tokyo station, and Liquors Hasegawa in Yaesu ( had Nikka 12) and the MegaDonQ in Shibuya (Nikka 17 blend for just under 6000). The various Kurayoshi blends are getting more and more shelf space in DonQ and BIC.

      At Narita, Terminal 1, I had an afternoon flight, so the Hibiki 21s at 50k were long gone. The Fuji Sanroku 18 Limited Edition Olorosso was available for 34,200 yen. I picked up a bottle of the Yamazaki 18 limited edition (box) for 50k after realizing that I would likely not be seeing it for less than that in the next 2 years or more. I never thought I would be paying 50k for bottles of H21 and Y18 (the last at Duty Free no less) and thinking that I was getting a (relative) bargain.

  8. Was at Narita Terminal 1 yesterday and scored a bottle of Ichiro’s Travel Edition for Y27,000 and Nikka 12 for Y4,860. Those prices reflect 10% discount I get when I use my United card at ANA store! But all the Suntory Airport LE products were all sold out when I got there around 1400.

  9. So I guess it’s time to say farewell to The Nikka 12, Nikka Coffey Grain & Nikka Coffey Malt. Nikka has announced their discontinuation. Grab them while you still can.

    • A mate living in New Zealand grabbed me a bottle of the Nikka Premium Blend 12(a lot cheaper than in Australia) and I asked he could try and get me at least one more. I think he is going to grab some of the Coffey Malt/Grain for himself as it is also cheaper in NZ. I prefer Nikka from the Barrel anyway so not sure if I will grab any of the Coffey bottling’s.

  10. For those in Tokyo, Liquor Mountain Ginza is celebrating it’s 1 year anniversary. Some premium sets with Japanese whisky, a Nagahama Red Wine Cask Prototype and a tasting of Akashi whisky today. Looks like 200 100ml bottles of the Nagahama in total, so not sure if still there. 3000 yen.

  11. Found 6 bottles of Hibiki Blender’s Choice for Y10800 and 6 bottles of Ichiro’s LE World’s Blend for Y9720 in Tokyo. Grabbed one each! Ichiro’s were gone within 1-1.5 hrs. I got there just right after they stock the shelf. Saw the Hibiki first and grabbed a bottle right the way. When I was paying for it I saw couple locals grabbing a blue box and I was like that is Ichiro’s LE!! Pretty luck today.

  12. Question for the regulars! I will be in Japan for 3-4 days in September. As last time when I visited I used a lot of time for finding not much, and that was 3 years ago then I’m not going to bother with the current market. Better to use the time visiting bars and just taste things instead! However how are distilleries for puchases? Yamazaki is basically early morning and very lucky I believe. Miyagikyo and Fuji Gotemba were perhaps main ones to try and visit for me – do they have anything interesting these days, or stripped bare/never stocked too? I was also thinking to visit Shizuoka, but presume they won’t have anything there (also will be on public transport so likely to take a long time!). In addition, is there good shops for Japanese exclusive single casks of Scotch whisky worth checking out?

    • I can answer your last question! Shinanoya almost always has Single Cask Bottlings of Scottish Whisky bottled for them. There was at least 5-6 from different distilleries when I was there last November.

      • Thanks! Will keep an eye on their online store and see what they have when I am over, and can drop by and pick up anything interesting!

    • I visited Fuji Gotemba last summer. The tour was nice, but there was absolutely nothing of interest to purchase, and many of their older whiskies were not even available to taste (even with a surcharge). The price for their standard offer bottles was also much higher than other local retail shops. Yamazaki was a nice visit. Lots to taste at their bar (for a surcharge) and they usually have a small distillery-only bottle to purchase in the gift shop.

  13. There will be a new version of the Mars Double cellars out at the end of January. The last one can still be found at retail, so hopefully not too challenging to track down. Has already popped up on Amazon but only on pre-order.

  14. Shall we expect early Feb ordering for Mitsukoshi / Isetan high priced Ichiro’s & Komagatake again like last year?

    Gotta comment to get email notifications of other people’s comments. 😉

    • The Chichibus went up today at 10am JST, already sold out. No Komagatake this time.

      I posted a reply with links to details but it is stuck in moderation at the moment.

      • Thanks for the info. Requests approval when 2 or more links in a comment. I’ve changed it to 3 or more but am going to leave it at that.
        As per your comment with the links “sold out in a minute”. Not much chance for mere mortals!
        My personal opinion is there are too many limited release/single cask Chichibu’s and there should be more bottling’s like the 2018 Heavily Peated that had 11,550 bottles. Basically, I think more of the casks should go into general releases so easier access for the average punter.

    • Forgot to respond awhile back. Was only in tokyo for a day and spotted the 5 year bourbon barrel akashi, the 3 year sake cask akashi, the komagatake 2018 limited edition, and nikka 12 all for their retail prices at Aeon in Ikebukero. Surprising how long the akashi stay on the shelves, that 5 year bourbon has gotten good reviews from all my friends that have tried it. Granted, the akashi are usually hit or miss so i guess its understandable… I didn’t purchase anything, but likely they are all still there if anyone is interested.

      • Thanks. I have tasting notes on both those Akashi’s just haven’t posted them yet. Bourbon Barrel has pretty straight forward first fill notes and flavors for a whisky of that age. Sake Cask, even though I have my notes, every time I taste it I’m not sure how much I like it. Sometimes more, sometimes less. Already posted my notes on the Mars 2018 LE.
        The Nikka 12 is being replaced in April so worth grabbing I’d say. A whisky that improved for me over time.

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