Back in 2014, Japan saw a boom in their domestic whiskey industry but time can change our fates, for better or for worse. Truly, it was an age to be alive! Now, just four years later, recent developments suggest that Japan is running out of whiskey, with Suntory officially announcing that sales of the Hakushu 12-year-old single malt and the Hibiki 17-year-old blend, each over a decade old, would stop, and the whole thing is a lesson in why you can have too much of a good thing.
According to IT Media, Suntory officially announced that Hakushu 12 would end next month, with George Koutsakis at Forbes breaking that Hibiki 17 would meet a similar fate, although sales are expected to last until September. That said, just around four years prior, whiskey seemed like it reached its peak in the country, but you know what they say about peaks.
Japan actually had a domestic whiskey boom in 2014 partially thanks to a TV drama over Masataka Taketsuru, who is considered the founder of Japan’s whiskey industry. According to Kotaku, the show helped domestic brands, like Nikka and Suntory whiskeys, to fly off Japanese shelves.
Unfortunately, things couldn’t last forever for one simple reason: you can’t make whiskey overnight. Since whiskey hadn’t been as popular before, whiskey wasn’t in large enough production in the years before the boom. Once it became popular, there wasn’t enough time to replace the whiskey as it was flying off the shelves. Less spirit was put into wood to mature so there was less old whiskey.
What can be done to save Japan’s whiskey?
In order to keep production going, whiskey makers have no choice but to halt sales. Alternatively, these makers can sell drinks that don’t take as much time to make for the time being; Nikka, for example, has started to invest in clear spirits.
According to Nikkei, whiskey prices are also going up to coincide with their rarity, which is often how things work out. Some companies are also releasing single malts without age statements, which can allow for a wider range of whiskeys.
Finally, some companies can just expand their production and are planning to do just that, but it is not as simple as you think. Some companies, like Nikka, make their drinks by hand, so its going to be a bit complicated to increase production.