World Whiskies Awards 2023, JW Day, Suntory price increases

World Whiskies Awards 2023 Global Winners

Whisky Magazine’s World Whiskies Awards announced their global winners just last night at an event in London. The full results are here, but from Japan, we see the below names:

  • Ichiro’s Malt & Grain Japanese Blended Whisky Limited Edition 2023 has reclaimed the title of World’s Best Blended Limited Release. This yearly release has won the same title every year since 2018, apart from 2022. It may seem odd that a given bottle has a “limited” release every year, but I understand that Akuto-san is indeed running low on his stock of Japanese grain whisky. So it really might be limited soon.
  • Taketsuru Pure Malt has won the title of World’s Best Blended Malt. Taketsuru brings together malts from Yoichi and Miyagikyo, and it went up the likes of Nikka’s Session world whisky. Interestingly, Nikka’s Miyagikyo Distillery isn’t that far away from last year’s winner, Asaka Distillery’s Yamazakura Sherrywood Reserve. To be fair “Blended Malt” is a fairly small category. Taketsuru 17 won the same title in 2018, and Taketsuru 25 won in 2019.
  • Niigata Kameda New Pot Peated has won World’s Best New Make & Young Spirit. The quality of their new make has turned quite a lot of heads here in Japan so there’s no surprise it also has international appeal.

Congratulations to all the winners. It’s good to see Taketsuru is again on the global stage this year, given we are celebrating Japanese whisky’s 100th birthday.

Japanese Whisky Day: April 1

Speaking of the celebration, tomorrow I’ll be at the Japanese Whisky Day event in Nihombashi. Unlike last year, this event is open to members of the public. There’s an hour-long keynote, 90-minute tasting seminar, then a 75-minute talk show and kampai event. That final portion will be broadcast live via YouTube from 7PM JST, so tune in if you want to practice your Japanese listening skills (2021’s recording is here, to give you an idea). As a member of the Executive Committee, you’ll see me at some point on the livestream.

Suntory increasing prices of legacy Japanese whisky brands

In step with almost everything getting more expensive, Suntory has revealed price increases for bottles in their low/mid-tier core range of domestic Japanese whiskies. All of the below changes apply to standard 700ml bottles beginning with July 1, 2023 shipments.

Suntory Kakubin rises from 1,590 yen to 1,910 yen, an increase of 20%. This is a gut punch for a huge swathe of the Japanese drinking public as standard Kakubin is by far the best-selling domestic whisky in Japan thanks to the success of the whisky highball. It’s not a “Japanese” whisky per the standard, but still, yikes.

Suntory Old, a godfather of a brand pre-dating stuff like Yamazaki, will go from 1,880 yen to 2,250 yen (20% increase). The change means we will no longer have any JSLMA-compliant Japanese whisky under 2,000 yen.

Special Reserve, my personal favorite of the three JSLMA-compliant bottles in the mid-tier range, rises from 2,580 yen to 3,000 yen (16% increase).

Suntory Royal, the company’s most premium non-premium blended whisky, will rise from 3,360 yen to 3,900 yen (16% increase).

Globally, alcohol taxes in Japan remain laughably low, so even these post-increase prices might seem very affordable in your country. But Kakubin alone makes up about half of all whisky consumed in Japan–imported or not!–so these effects will be felt far and wide. When a 400 yen highball increases to 500 yen (25% increase), you might think twice about drinking anything at all.

One Comment

Share your thoughts! Start nomunicating now!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.