Japan: Distillers discontinue premium whiskies due to overwhelming demand
In October, Nikka Whisky announced that it would have employees working both day and night shifts for the first time since the late 1990s, one of several changes it has made in an attempt to meet the increasing demand for Japanese whisky.
According to Bloomberg, sales of Japanese whisky are expected to increase by seven percent in the next two years, which means that distilleries owned by Nikka and Suntory have been scrambling to increase their whisky-making capabilities. But without creating working time machines, it also means that they can't possibly keep up with demand for their most popular aged whiskies. As a result, even the biggest distilleries have had to pull some products from the market; Suntory has previously been forced to discontinue its Hibiki 17 and Hakushu 12 whiskies.
Earlier this week, Nikka told its Japanese suppliers that it will be suspending the sales of three more of its age-statement malt whiskies in March. The discontinued whiskies will include the 17, 21, and 25 Year Old varieties of Taketsuru Pure Malt, although Nikka will continue to sell a no age-statement version of its Taketsuru Pure Malt.
The Taketsuru line was named in honor of Masataka Taketsuru, the founder of Nikka and the man who has been called "The Father of Japanese whisky." Nikka's Taketsuru Pure Malt is a blend of whiskies produced at both of its distilleries, Yoichi on the island of Hokkaido, and Miyagikyo in Sendai.
The Drinks Business reports that Nikka made this decision for the sake of "stable and effective conservation of whisky reserves." This isn't the first time that increased demand has marked the end of one of Nikka's brands: in early 2019, it discontinued Nikka 12 and "temporarily suspended" its Nikka Coffey Malt, and Nikka Coffey Grain. It also discontinued its age-statement Yoichi and Miyagikyo single malts in 2015.
In addition to reinstating a second shift, Nikka has also put 6.5 billion yen ($61 million) toward increasing its production of raw whisky. It has already announced that it would be adding tanks at its Yoichi distillery and constructing a new building to house additional barrels during the aging process. It hopes that, by 2030, it will have enough inventory to meet consumer demand.
That more or less echoes what Takeshi Niinami, the CEO of Suntory, has previously said. "[W]e can't supply enough to the market requirement. But in 10 years' time, we will gradually be able to respond to the market need," he told The Spirits Business in late 2016. "We have to maintain the current momentum for as long as more than a decade, but we are very much confident."
"The availability of products will vary depending on the market," the company writes on its website. That's so much more humble than "The market is thirsty for our whiskies, which is why we keep running out of them."
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