No more Suntory time: Japan’s stock of aged whiskey dries up

Posted by Ilya Dorfman on

The beloved Japanese whiskey popularized by Bill Murray in Lost in Translation will soon be no more, as supply issues have forced Suntory to discontinue two of its prize-winning products.

Suntory says its 12-year-old Hakushu and 17-year-old Hibiki whiskies are being discontinued “due to supply constraints,” following a years-long boom in popularity.

Both Suntory whiskies have won numerous international taste-test awards over the years, edging out competitors from more traditional whiskey hotbeds such as Scotland, Canada, and the United States. Demand has also been fuelled by a general surge in the popularity of Japanese whiskeys over the last decade. It’s unclear when the whiskies will hit the market again, although Suntory says the world hasn’t seen the last of them.

Some have attributed part of the 17-year-old Hibiki’s success to the film Lost in Translation, in which Bill Murray portrays an aging actor hired to shoot commercials for the whiskey in Japan.

“For relaxing times, make it Suntory time,” Murray’s character, Bob Harris, says in one of the commercials.

But time has proven to be a problem for Suntory. The company can’t simply ramp up production of its hottest-selling whiskies, because they need to age in barrels for over a decade before they can be sold.

Shinji Fukuyo, the company’s chief blender, says the aging process is essential to achieving each Suntory whiskey’s desired taste. “What’s important for whiskey is that its deliciousness must deepen with aging, sitting in the casks for a long time,” Fukuyo said.

As availability becomes more scarce, do consider picking up a bottle while we have some inventory still available.

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