Japanese Whiskey

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Chris S p i k e s
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Japanese Whiskey

#1 Post by Chris S p i k e s » November 12th, 2010, 7:21 am

Anyone familiar? I saw them briefly on a menu at a restaurant I'm going to be hitting in a few weeks. I have never heard that the Japanese have made serious whiskey, but I wouldn't put it past them to improve on the drink. Are these worth having?

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Re: Japanese Whiskey

#2 Post by Bill Tex Landreth » November 12th, 2010, 7:52 am

Just watch this.

Oh, and Scarlett Johansson isn't too bad on the eyes.

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Re: Japanese Whiskey

#3 Post by G Lam » November 12th, 2010, 12:41 pm

Chris S p i k e s wrote:Anyone familiar? I saw them briefly on a menu at a restaurant I'm going to be hitting in a few weeks. I have never heard that the Japanese have made serious whiskey, but I wouldn't put it past them to improve on the drink. Are these worth having?

Chris
I've only had the Yamazaki one, but I thought it was very good, especially the 18. Stylistically, it's not like sucking on an ashtray though.

You may also want to try the Yoichi.
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Re: Japanese Whiskey

#4 Post by John Liotta » November 12th, 2010, 1:52 pm

I think they are good, very well-made, but like anything you have to like the style. For me they really require a lot of tinkering. One really big cube and a lot of time in the glass for me to really appreciate them. Most of the ones I have tried, specifically the aged ones (almost all are blended btw) taste like they come from/mimic Islay Whiskeys, and show either a lot of smoke or a lot of peat (or both). Most are not super subtle. I think the only one I own is Yamazaki 18 (and I don't drink it often). The last few I tried (Hakushu and some other smaller one, both at a sushi restaurant) tasted like an unfortunate combination of a used ash tray, aged in a sherry cask, and doused in whiskey to taste. It got better after the addition of water and time, but not good enough to really recommend. The Yamazakis have been the best. I have yet to taste the Yoichi, which, strangely, is hard to find here, even though it is owned by Asahi Brewery and that stuff is everywhere.
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Re: Japanese Whiskey

#5 Post by e chin » December 26th, 2012, 11:54 am

Anyone familiar with Hibiki 12 yo from Suntory? I recently tried this at a restaurant and was surprised how much I enjoyed this. Given this was suggested by the bartender we had a little discussion about this. Come to find out it is very hard to acquire due to limited supply. My question is, has anyone tried their others in their lineup and if so how does it compare to the 12yo? I only owe one bottle of whisky, but I may have to add a second.
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Re: Japanese Whiskey

#6 Post by Brian G r a f s t r o m » December 26th, 2012, 12:52 pm

Haven't had that Suntory, Ed ---- sorry.

As to the original OP from a couple years ago: the Nikka range is quite excellent, and is worth seeking-out.
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Re: Japanese Whiskey

#7 Post by c fu » December 26th, 2012, 1:01 pm

John Liotta wrote:I think they are good, very well-made, but like anything you have to like the style. For me they really require a lot of tinkering. One really big cube and a lot of time in the glass for me to really appreciate them. Most of the ones I have tried, specifically the aged ones (almost all are blended btw) taste like they come from/mimic Islay Whiskeys, and show either a lot of smoke or a lot of peat (or both). Most are not super subtle. I think the only one I own is Yamazaki 18 (and I don't drink it often). The last few I tried (Hakushu and some other smaller one, both at a sushi restaurant) tasted like an unfortunate combination of a used ash tray, aged in a sherry cask, and doused in whiskey to taste. It got better after the addition of water and time, but not good enough to really recommend. The Yamazakis have been the best. I have yet to taste the Yoichi, which, strangely, is hard to find here, even though it is owned by Asahi Brewery and that stuff is everywhere.
I really enjoy the Yamazaki 18 and Hibiki 21. I never noticed any ash tray on them to be honest. But those two are both made by Suntory so maybe that's why.
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Re: Japanese Whiskey

#8 Post by e chin » December 26th, 2012, 2:56 pm

Charlie Fu wrote:I really enjoy the Yamazaki 18 and Hibiki 21. I never noticed any ash tray on them to be honest. But those two are both made by Suntory so maybe that's why.
Anything of note about the Hibiki 21?
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Re: Japanese Whiskey

#9 Post by Mike Grammer » December 27th, 2012, 8:55 am

I am with John----well-made but have to like the style. I haven't found one yet that reaches my personal soul, but they *are* well made. I think, John, that the Yoichi has been closest to my taste profile, of what I've had. I really need to try a few more of these to get to the point of having some reliable data :)

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Re: Japanese Whiskey

#10 Post by Jim Karegeannes » December 29th, 2012, 3:29 am

Had to post:

I guess he is attempting a hip parody of this one:

No Japanese whiskey experience here (Did drink a good French one the other day)
I am willing to try, especially if I can be like Sammy

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#11 Post by Todd F r e n c h » September 6th, 2017, 8:09 pm

Hakushu 12 is quite nice - enjoying it now
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#12 Post by Bill Tex Landreth » October 7th, 2017, 6:20 pm

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#13 Post by Rich Salsano » October 23rd, 2017, 3:47 am

Had Hibiki 17 year over the weekend. One large cube. Super smooth and elegant blended whisky. Loved it.
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#14 Post by Mike Grammer » October 29th, 2017, 7:40 am

Yamazaki 12 on recommendation and yes, like that quite a bit!

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Re: Japanese Whiskey

#15 Post by Lex S » November 2nd, 2017, 4:45 pm

Brian G r a f s t r o m wrote:Haven't had that Suntory, Ed ---- sorry.

As to the original OP from a couple years ago: the Nikka range is quite excellent, and is worth seeking-out.
I second that. Drank Nikka whiskey for the first time 12 years ago visiting my wife's relatives in Wakayama, Japan. Real smooth-sipping treat!
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#16 Post by Peter Petersen » November 11th, 2017, 8:35 am

Haven't been drinking much whisky in the last 20 years, but my fav were always the peaty ones.
Picked up 2 bottles of The Hakushu 12, which is also a Suntory distillery and tried it last night (my very first Japanese whisky). This is moderately peaty and a little hard on the palate, an ice cube smoothed out the palate nicely though. Quite like it, but this is strictly for fans of peaty malts.
The question remains if it is worth buying vis a vis single malts at $65. My fav used to be Lagavulin 16, but haven't tried it since it was $40!! and it might not be quite as interesting as that. But it is probably better than Laphroaig 10 and Talisker.

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#17 Post by Patrick Keigan » November 11th, 2017, 12:35 pm

I hate the price increases that have taken place with the Japanese stuff, that coupled with the fact that our store sees it only once or twice a year has taken the will out of me to hunt it down. That being said, Yamazaki Sherry Cask is the best liquid I have ever had. So rich, so much body, just an incredible dram.

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Re: Japanese Whiskey

#18 Post by Anton D » November 11th, 2017, 4:55 pm

e chin wrote:Anyone familiar with Hibiki 12 yo from Suntory? I recently tried this at a restaurant and was surprised how much I enjoyed this. Given this was suggested by the bartender we had a little discussion about this. Come to find out it is very hard to acquire due to limited supply. My question is, has anyone tried their others in their lineup and if so how does it compare to the 12yo? I only owe one bottle of whisky, but I may have to add a second.
I love it.

Suntory’s whole stable is pretty good!
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#19 Post by Craig G » November 11th, 2017, 6:25 pm

Peter Petersen wrote:Haven't been drinking much whisky in the last 20 years, but my fav were always the peaty ones.
Picked up 2 bottles of The Hakushu 12, which is also a Suntory distillery and tried it last night (my very first Japanese whisky). This is moderately peaty and a little hard on the palate, an ice cube smoothed out the palate nicely though. Quite like it, but this is strictly for fans of peaty malts.
The question remains if it is worth buying vis a vis single malts at $65. My fav used to be Lagavulin 16, but haven't tried it since it was $40!! and it might not be quite as interesting as that. But it is probably better than Laphroaig 10 and Talisker.
I recently bought a bottle of the Hakushu as well, but I think this is a pretty fair question. In my opinion, when the Japanese whiskeys are emulating Scotch, Scotch is going to be a better deal. You can get Talisker, Lagavulin or Laphroaig for less, for example.

The ones that are not Scotch-like are more interesting to me: Hibiki, The Chita (not available in USA, sadly), Nikka Coffey Grain. These are also more versatile than Scotch if you want to make spendy mixed drinks.
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#20 Post by Patrick Keigan » November 12th, 2017, 12:16 pm

I have heard great things about Nikka Coffey Grain. I should probably search it out and give it a try.

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#21 Post by bweimer » November 13th, 2017, 6:34 am

BTW, there are 2 versions: Nikka Coffey Grain Whiskey and Nikka Coffey Malt Whiskey. They are both worth trying but the latter was named best Japanese Whiskey in the Whisky Bible this year. They are about the same price but the Malt is harder to find now.
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#22 Post by T3rry D3an » November 13th, 2017, 11:48 pm

As a whiskey neophyte, I have to say that my go to for a super-easy drinking Japanese whiskey was the Taketsuru 12-year that was easily found in bars all around (it was always like the third Japanese whiskey a bar would get if they wanted to be 'exotic'). However, those are long gone, now, in favor of a no-age bottling at the same price (which I haven't tried). I did get a chance to try out the Taketsuru 17 and 21 years in Tokyo a month ago and I have to say that the 17 was sublime. Tracked down a remaining bottle of 17 in the US at a not-ridiculous price because I liked it so much.

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#23 Post by Michael S. Monie » November 16th, 2017, 12:06 pm

bweimer wrote:BTW, there are 2 versions: Nikka Coffey Grain Whiskey and Nikka Coffey Malt Whiskey. They are both worth trying but the latter was named best Japanese Whiskey in the Whisky Bible this year. They are about the same price but the Malt is harder to find now.
Found both of these on the shelf locally. Next to it by the same producer was one labeled " pure malt" which I believed is named after the founder. Anyone had it?
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#24 Post by Doug Schulman » December 15th, 2017, 6:41 am

Nikka Coffee Malt is more of a Bourbon style, very unusual for Japanese whiskeys. The Pure Malt is more like Scotch as you'd expect. They're both nice, but not great. Since they carry no age designations, their prices haven't escalated the way the age designated stuff has, so I think they're well valued. Calling the Coffee Malt the best Japanese whiskey is ludicrous. There are so many that are so much better.
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#25 Post by Michae1 P0wers » December 28th, 2017, 6:58 am

Doug Schulman wrote:Nikka Coffee Malt is more of a Bourbon style, very unusual for Japanese whiskeys. The Pure Malt is more like Scotch as you'd expect. They're both nice, but not great. Since they carry no age designations, their prices haven't escalated the way the age designated stuff has, so I think they're well valued. Calling the Coffee Malt the best Japanese whiskey is ludicrous. There are so many that are so much better.
I had this last night for the first time and I certainly didn't find it to be in a bourbon style, though the review I read before buying agreed with your take, making mention of caramel and pecan flavors that I just didn't pick up. I thought it was waaaaaaaaay too malt forward to be mistaken for bourbon, and didn't have any characteristic I'd associate with bourbon. This is based on one glass though, neat then with ice added. I had the Nikka grain the night before and frankly I preferred the grain over the malt based upon those two tastings. It speaks to what Craig said above, in that the NCM emulated Scotch and was just okay, whereas the NCG was more unique in its own right.

A local store has the Nikka Toki for $25. It's not a world beater by any means, but at $25 I'm thinking I'll grab a couple of bottles to experiment with mixing something from them or just for easy drinking, as I found the Toki light and somewhat floral.

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#26 Post by Travis @llen » January 25th, 2018, 6:04 pm

Hibiki 17 is hands down my favorite whiskey. Last time I was in Japan I picked up a bottle of Hibiki 21, which is also good, but it was impossible to find a bottle of the 17. There were however 50mL hibiki 17s for $10, so now I have a stash of those to last a while.
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#27 Post by Craig G » January 26th, 2018, 5:57 am

Michae1 P0wers wrote:A local store has the Nikka Toki for $25. It's not a world beater by any means, but at $25 I'm thinking I'll grab a couple of bottles to experiment with mixing something from them or just for easy drinking, as I found the Toki light and somewhat floral.
I think you mean Suntory Toki. $25 is a really good price for it. I like it for mixing. If you can find The Chita, it's along the same lines but more bold and complex. I really like it. It's not sold in the US except in duty free.
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#28 Post by Craig G » January 26th, 2018, 6:00 am

Travis @llen wrote:Hibiki 17 is hands down my favorite whiskey. Last time I was in Japan I picked up a bottle of Hibiki 21, which is also good, but it was impossible to find a bottle of the 17. There were however 50mL hibiki 17s for $10, so now I have a stash of those to last a while.
I saw the Hibiki 17 at Liquors Hasegawa in Tokyo Station. It was about $170. Where did you find the 21?

Those 50ml Hibiki 17s are great. They're the only thing I've ever bought at Bic Camera!
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#29 Post by Craig G » January 28th, 2018, 3:03 am

I'm in Taiwan for a couple of weeks and I picked up a bottle of the Hibiki Harmony Master's Select while coming in through duty free. It's a special blend of Harmony with more Sherry cask aged Yamazaki. I don't actually like it that much. I find it too Sherried and too woody, particularly when it's on ice. I like the regular Harmony quite a bit. Next time I'll buy The Chita, save some money, and be much happier.
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#30 Post by Michae1 P0wers » February 2nd, 2018, 12:26 pm

Craig G wrote:
Michae1 P0wers wrote:A local store has the Nikka Toki for $25. It's not a world beater by any means, but at $25 I'm thinking I'll grab a couple of bottles to experiment with mixing something from them or just for easy drinking, as I found the Toki light and somewhat floral.
I think you mean Suntory Toki. $25 is a really good price for it. I like it for mixing. If you can find The Chita, it's along the same lines but more bold and complex. I really like it. It's not sold in the US except in duty free.
Yes thank you, it's Suntory, I was also posting about the Nikka malt and typed the wrong thing. Not bad at all at $25, and light enough to mix interestingly.

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#31 Post by J. Schenck » March 14th, 2018, 3:32 pm

the Toki is best used for highballs (one of the preferred ways to drink whisky in Japan).

most Japanese whisky is not peated at all. Hakushu is Suntory's peated whisky.

Yamazaki 12, 18, and 25 are marvelous.

Nikka Coffey Malt is very interesting and worth trying.
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#32 Post by Travis @llen » March 14th, 2018, 9:23 pm

I know it is partially off topic, but the nikka gin is great! Major citrus and yuzu flavor.
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#33 Post by Mike Grammer » March 15th, 2018, 1:34 am

Was just at a friend's place last night (long-time buddy and he's just getting into wine now) and I noticed he had La Chita in his cabinet. Next time :)

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#34 Post by jrozes » March 16th, 2018, 12:53 pm

Travis @llen wrote:I know it is partially off topic, but the nikka gin is great! Major citrus and yuzu flavor.
Thanks for sharing that. I've been curious to hear what it's like for a while now.

Any cocktails it works particularly well in?
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#35 Post by K John Joseph » March 20th, 2018, 1:56 pm

After surfing this thread, I ordered a Yamazaki 18 with 1 large ice cube at Town Hearth in Dallas last Friday. I had no idea this whiskey was so expensive, and probably wouldn't have ordered it if I knew it retailed for $450 plus a bottle. Ouch with a restaurant mark up.

In any event, I like scotch and was looking forward to trying this. It's not scotch. That is not to say that it isn't a wonderful whiskey. It is incredibly smooth, shows lovely vanilla-oak, smooth liquid brown sugar, fruit, sherry, and incense notes. It's really obviously a great dram. It runs more to the sweet palate of a bourbon without being as cloying as I find most Bourbon. At the same time, it is no Scotch. I'd hoped it would be a bit more scotchy, more saline, hit of iodine, but it's not there. That doesn't objectively take away from the whiskey, but it ensures I'll not spend my money on it again.
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#36 Post by Peter Petersen » May 5th, 2018, 7:15 pm

Just bought a bottle of Kaiyō Mizunara today, my second Japanese whisky purchase. Pretty exotic and rich stuff based on a quick taste.

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#37 Post by Jeff P » August 29th, 2018, 10:43 am

If you like blended whiskey, try Ichiro's Malt and Grain Blended Whisky. Very tasty. In US it is usually about $100 but if you ever go to Japan I saw it as low as $35
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#38 Post by Benjamin C » September 3rd, 2018, 9:33 am

I find Akashi White Oak and Iwai great entry level Japanese whiskey's that are quite readily available in the USA. You should be able to get their entry level bottling for below $50.
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#39 Post by Joshua Kates » October 6th, 2018, 11:35 am

Agree with both previous posts, but all are in lighter more delicate still, like Hibiki, which has come to be my preference in Japanese Whisky (it's always spelled out WITHOUT the "e", btw).
But for those looking to make a whooping investment and/or purchase, here you go:
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#40 Post by Craig G » December 29th, 2018, 10:08 pm

I was able to get a bottle of Yamazaki 12 from K&L but I’m not very impressed. I like all the other Suntory whisky I’ve tried but this one just doesn’t seem that interesting. I much prefer Hakushu 12 and Chita (and any Hibiki except the sherry-heavy Master’s Select).
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#41 Post by JulianD » January 19th, 2019, 9:15 pm

Anyone know how pricing is in Japan? (significant discount? or relatively similar) Will be going next month and looking to pick up a few bottles.
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#42 Post by Mich@el Ch@ng » January 20th, 2019, 1:56 pm

It’s a lot cheaper. I found hibiki 17 for relatively low prices and 50 ml miniatures were $4.

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#43 Post by YLee » January 23rd, 2019, 6:43 am

Am I seeing this right? Hibiki 12 is $3xx usd?
I bought this long ago for about $30.
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#44 Post by Jud Reis » January 23rd, 2019, 10:10 am

The demand has gotten so crazy, it is harder to find aged bottles even in Japan. When you can, prices are much better.

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#45 Post by CraigE. » January 24th, 2019, 10:00 pm

JulianD wrote:
January 19th, 2019, 9:15 pm
Anyone know how pricing is in Japan? (significant discount? or relatively similar) Will be going next month and looking to pick up a few bottles.
Was in Japan in November. Wish I didn't waste so much time checking BIC camera and other department stores. I wasn't able to find anything special at reasonable prices. Liquor stores, if they have anything special, add significant premiums, while department stores which sell at retail are well picked through.

One reliable place to enjoy is on the JR trains, yamazaki 12 in 50ml bottles is the standard whiskey from the carts on board.
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#46 Post by Mich@el Ch@ng » January 24th, 2019, 11:04 pm

The best place I found was in downtown Kyoto near the Ikura hotel; they had hibiki 17, Blanton gold, and a few bottles of btac stuff at near us retail.

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#47 Post by Sarah Kirschbaum » January 25th, 2019, 11:53 am

CraigE. wrote:
January 24th, 2019, 10:00 pm
JulianD wrote:
January 19th, 2019, 9:15 pm
Anyone know how pricing is in Japan? (significant discount? or relatively similar) Will be going next month and looking to pick up a few bottles.
Was in Japan in November. Wish I didn't waste so much time checking BIC camera and other department stores. I wasn't able to find anything special at reasonable prices. Liquor stores, if they have anything special, add significant premiums, while department stores which sell at retail are well picked through.

One reliable place to enjoy is on the JR trains, yamazaki 12 in 50ml bottles is the standard whiskey from the carts on board.
This has been our experience as well - no special or extra availability for whisky in Japan versus US for most desirable bottles, and prices nothing to seek out except at some bars which specialize. But Campari is dirt cheap!

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Craig G
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Re: Japanese Whiskey

#48 Post by Craig G » March 24th, 2019, 9:07 pm

Has anyone tried Kikori? It’s made from rice but the notes sound interesting.
“You need to look down to the bottom shelf where they keep the Fighting Cock” — Corey N.

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Kris Patten
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Re: Japanese Whiskey

#49 Post by Kris Patten » March 25th, 2019, 8:36 pm

The thirst for Japanese whisky is crazy, you'll start to see higher age statements disappear IMO, and Suntory has a stranglehold on stocks. We don't rep Suntory and it's a struggle to find other producers. Finally found 1, so I now have 1 Japanese whisky......took almost 4 years.
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