There is no alleviating the crisis that has plagued Japanese whiskies. This drought was first announced mid-2018, when Suntory announced the discontinuation of its Hibiki 17 Year Old and Hakushu 12 Year Old because the demand was far too intense, and there remains a dearth in supply. At the end of February this year, Suntory and Nikka both stepped forth to declare that they would be canning more whiskies in their line, further proving that the Japanese whisky shortage shows little signs of slowing.
These phased-out whiskies may not be as familiar to global drinkers given that they were mostly domestic favourites. Axed labels from Suntory include Shirokaku, as well as 350ml bottles of Chita and 450ml bottles of Kabukin. On the Nikka spectrum, the 12 Year Old is one we have to bid goodbye to. The distillers have also stated that they will temporarily suspend the Nikka Coffey Grain and Malt expressions — two of the more recent introductions to the brand.
With the crisis, prices of existing Japanese whiskies, especially the single malts, have skyrocketed dramatically as people rush to hoard bottles for their collections. For those who enjoy Japanese whisky but aren’t that zealous, this fervour set off by the crisis doesn’t mean you’ll have to fork out uncomfortably absurd amounts to own a bottle or never drink Japanese whisky again.
In fact, distillers are still pushing out new expressions to add breadth to their current line. Not many have the luxury of bottling single malts due to its time-consuming nature, but distillers are steadily turning to blends and no age statement products to remind the world that Japanese whisky is not down the path of extinction. Another promising thing about the current guard on the market is that it retains everything we love about Japanese whiskies while being priced at a point that doesn’t cripple your bank.
For those keen to get on the bandwagon, here are five of our favourite, readily available Japanese whiskies to add to your collection.