Major Japanese whisky companies Suntory and Nikka have announced further cuts to their whisky ranges. It was already bad enough when Hibiki 17 and Hakushu 12 were discontinued last May, as distilleries ran out of aged stock.
Now, they have announced even more whiskies will be discontinued, though some of these you may not have seen before as they were exclusively produced for the Japanese market. On the Suntory side, the culled releases include blended whisky Shirokaku’s 700ml, 1.92l, 2.7l and 4l bottles, single grain Chita’s 350ml bottles, and blended whisky Kakubin’s 450ml bottles (one of Japan’s best selling whiskies).
These cuts help explain Suntory’s push to introduce its new ‘Ao’ whisky, produced in combination with other distilleries from around the world.
For Nikka, this includes axing Nikka 12, one of the last budget-friendly aged Japanese whiskies, and ‘temporarily suspending’ two my personal favourites, the Coffey Grain and Malt whiskies.
You know things are pretty dire when even grain whisky releases, easy to produce in enormous quantities, need to be cut.
Another major whisky brand not very well known outside of Japan, Kirin Gotemba, is also dropping its Fujisanroku Tarujuku 50˚ whisky.
So the Japanese whisky news continues to be bad. Even worse, the practice of taking advantage of Japan’s lax whisky laws to release ‘Japanese’ whisky that’s actually produced in other countries, or not even using whisky at all still continues as some parts of the industry continue to cut corners as the squeeze continues.
However, all is not lost for Japanese whisky, all that’s needed is a little patience as the industry gets back on its feet.
In an excellent article on scotchwhisky.com, Dave Broom also points to the new renaissance of boutique whisky distillation in the country. There are currently 23 distilleries in production in Japan, most of them small and new and some are already releasing small amounts of whisky.
On a larger scale, the problem isn’t also one of production. The whisky companies are currently producing plenty of whisky, it just needs time to age. It won’t be for another 10 years that Japanese whisky will be able to claw its way back onto the global stage to seriously compete with Scotch and American brands on store shelves.
Until then, be discerning when it comes to trying new Japanese releases. Some will be worth your while, but the majority probably won’t, unless you are ready to spend serious cash as prices rise for the rare bottles of aged whisky still available.
This article originally appeared on Forbes