Date
28 March 2017
Amid a rush of Hong Kong and mainland China buyers, wine merchants in places like Kyoto are said to have run out of Japanese single-malt whiskies. Photo: Ming Pao Daily
Amid a rush of Hong Kong and mainland China buyers, wine merchants in places like Kyoto are said to have run out of Japanese single-malt whiskies. Photo: Ming Pao Daily

Why whisky lovers from HK and China are rushing to Japan

In the wake of Bank of Japan’s quantitative easing program, the Japanese currency has lost nearly 10 percent of its value against the greenback since end-September 2014.

With the cheaper yen and the blooming of cherry blossoms, many mainland and Hong Kong tourists opted for Japan for an extended Easter holiday weekend earlier this month.

Japan has also become a preferred destination for whisky lovers from HK and mainland as Japanese spirits are gaining international recognition.

Japanese whiskies have gone from strength to strength in recent years. For example, the Yamazaki Single Malt Sherry Cask 2013 has knocked down Scottish counterparts and was chosen as the top spirit by the Whisky Bible this year.

Most of the single-malt whiskies were sold out at some stores in Kyoto, according to Ming Pao Daily.

In contrast to blended whisky, a single malt is made at one particular distillery from a mash that uses only malted grain, ordinarily barley. That’s why the price of the single malt whisky is usually higher than the blended one.

One Japanese merchant told Ming Pao that many Chinese have come to his store for whiskies.

Due to the weakened yen and rising cost of raw material, the two largest whisky distillers in Japan —Suntory and Nikka — announced price hikes at the end of 2014.

For example, the price of award-winning Hibiki 17-year old whisky has increased to 12,000 yen from 10,000 yen for a standard 700 ml bottle. The price of the popular Yamazaki 12-year old single malt has gone up to to 8,500 yen, from 7,000 yen previously.

Still, the prices are lower when compared to the levels in Hong Kong and China, making them a big draw for travelers.

A 20-year old Yoichi whisky now retails for 16,000 yen (US$133) a bottle in Japan, just one third the price in Hong Kong. The cost is higher at airport duty free shops, but it is still 40 percent cheaper compared to Hong Kong.

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RC

EJ Insight writer

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