This 30-Year Japanese Whisky Will Now Set You Back $2,425

This 30-Year Japanese Whisky Will Now Set You Back $2,425

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Hibiki 30 year
A bottle of Japan's Hibiki 30 is about to double in price. And it isn't the only Suntory whisky that's getting pricier as demand for Japanese whiskies shows no sign of slowing down.

Whisky – particularly good whisky – can set you back a pretty penny. That’s certainly the case with Japanese whisky, which is enjoying a years-long boom. But that boom is taking a toll on supplies. That means that some of Japan’s most beloved aged whiskies are about to become an even rarer pleasure.

The Japanese whisky boom

Glass of whisky on the rocks
Picture: イグのマスタ / PIXTA(ピクスタ)

Japanese whisky has been in high demand for years now. But that wasn’t always the case. Whisky brewing in Japan goes back 100 years as of this year. After a decades-long boom, manufacturers saw demand shrink in the 2000s.

In 2008, whisky manufacturers like Suntory looked for ways to make drinking popular again among the young. Alcoholic consumption is way down compared to previous years. That’s especially true among 20- and 30-somethings, who drink less and lean more towards a growing array of non-alcoholic options. That resulted in whisky consumption hitting a peak.

To combat that, Suntory sought to spark a whisky boom – mainly by promoting the kaku highball, or whisky in a tall glass of soda water. The campaign succeeded. The highball has since become a staple of izakaya and bars throughout the nation.

But Japanese whisky has also enjoyed a huge boom outside of Japan. Japanese whisky has been the number two alcohol export from Japan, right behind sake, for a number of years.

That increased demand means a more limited supply. That’s especially true for older whiskies which take a decade or more to age, as producers had no way of preparing for a boom 10+ years later.

In some cases, sales of certain lines of whisky have run out due to a lack of supply. In 2018, Suntory temporarily suspended sales of both Hibiki 17 year and Hakushu 12 year. In 2018, right as the suspension was announced, I was able to secure a bottle of Hibiki 17 for 23,000 yen (at the time, around USD $220). Today, Hibiki 17 starts at around 70,000 yen (USD $471.85) a bottle.

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Suntory whiskies skyrocket in price

Bartender pouring alcohol at a bar
Picture: keyphoto / PIXTA(ピクスタ)

Sadly, the shortage isn’t getting any better. And that’s leading Suntory to jack up the prices of several of its whiskies.

One victim is Hakushu 12, which is back on shelves – but still disappearing fast. Suntory said it’s raising the price of the single malt whisky from 10,000 yen ($67.40) to 15,000 yen ($101.09).

But the real sticker shock comes from the long-aged brands. Suntory will raise the price of Yamazaki 25 year, Hakushu 25 year, and Hibiki 30 year from 160,000 yen ($1,078) to a whopping 360,000 yen ($2,425). That’s a 2.2x increase.

In a statement, Suntory said, “In recent years, Japanese whiskies have received high praise both at home and abroad. But in the case of some whiskies, particularly premium whiskies, it takes an extremely long time to deliver the best quality to our customers. We are still in a situation where we cannot satisfactorily meet customer demand.”

Suntory also said that it will use the price hike to invest in new facilities so it can better meet anticipated future demand.

Commenters on X (formerly known as Twitter) lamented that the price hike puts the rarer strains of Suntory’s line out of its reach. “With a hike from 160,000 to 360,0000 yen, it’s a tough purchase,” one said. “Not that I’ve ever bought it before this.”

A truly unobtainable whisky

If you think those prices are bad, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet. This weekend, a bottle from 1960 sold for an eye-watering 56 million yen, or USD $377,508!

The bottle, which sold at a Sotheby’s auction in London, was produced in 1960 by Karuizawa Distillery in Nagano Prefecture. Karuizawa shut down in 2000, making this an especially rare find. In 2013, a mere 41 bottles were sold.

That’s not even the highest amount anyone’s paid for a Japanese whisky, either. The last one to go for big bucks was a bottle of Suntory Yamazaki 55 year, which sold last year in New York for 90 million yen, or $600,000.

Don’t despair – there are plenty of good Japanese whiskies that won’t run you thousands of dollars. And there are plenty of other great Japanese alcoholic drinks to try as well.

If you do pop for that bottle of Hibiki 30 year, however, I encourage you to savor every last drop. You’ve clearly earned it.

Sources

サントリー 国産ウイスキーが値上げへ「響30年」は16万円から36万円に. LiveDoor News

ウイスキー「山崎」の価格5割以上値上げ 来年4月から. TBS NewsDig

「響」「山﨑」「白州」20万値上げで36万円に サントリー国産プレミアムウイスキー値上げへ. Nikkan Sports

ウイスキー「軽井沢」、5600万円で落札 英国の競売. Nikkei

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Jay Allen

Jay manages the technical writing practice for ercule, an SEO, content strategy and analytics firm. A lifelong geek, wordsmith, and language fanatic, he has level N1 certification in the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT).

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