Indulge Yourself

5 Reasons Why Japanese Whisky Is So Expensive

5 Reasons Why Japanese Whisky Is So Expensive

Why is it so expensive to fill up your personalized whiskey decanter with Japanese whisky? Since the 1980s, a few factors have added up that has resulted in price increases in whisky, like Suntory’s Hibiki Whisky, Yamazaki, and Hakusha lines. Why is Japanese whisky so expensive and what caused the perfect storm of circumstances to make the price shoot up? It starts with one of the oldest economic principles.


Simple Supply and Demand

The heart of the story of Japanese whisky’s prices is simple: supply and demand. Supply has dropped drastically while demand has only increased. There are quite a few reasons why it’s now harder to find Japanese whisky in your personalized whiskey glasses. It doesn’t help that Suntory discontinued both Hibiki Japanese whisky 17 and Hakusha 12, two of their most famous expressions, in 2018. The price has increased, simply thanks to Japanese whisky’s rarity. Here are a few reasons why that has happened in America. 


Closing Distilleries

Whisky was very popular in Japan until the 1980s. Then, the rice-based shochu became the drink of choice. Because whisky fell out of favor, production slowed down, and distilleries didn’t fill casks. This caused distilleries such as Karuizawa and Hanyu to shut down due to a lack of demand in Japan. No longer, for example, could you have whisky made at the foot of an active volcano in Japan. Those Karuizawa bottles that still exist now command high prices at auction. Even whisky from open distilleries commands a high price, but if you want a bottle of whisky from a distillery that has closed in the past 30 years, be prepared to pay a premium.


Awards Garner Recognition

Japanese whiskies began winning international awards, boosting recognition. The early 2000s saw multiple Japanese whiskies winning significant awards. The Yamazaki Sherry Cask won World Whiskey of the Year in 2013. Naturally, whiskey connoisseurs want to try award-winning Japanese whisky to see why it garnered such recognition. This leads to popularity going up while supplies go down. Thus, by its very nature, award-winning whisky often has a higher price. Combine this with the scarcity of the whisky, and the prices are now much higher than even a decade ago.


Collector’s Items

High-end Japanese whisky is often considered more of an investment than something to be enjoyed. A Yamazaki 50-year-old expression sold for $299,000, in 2018, setting a world record. Even the more affordable Japanese whiskies become collector’s items as stock disappears.


It Takes Time

Maturing Japanese whisky takes time. In another decade, there will likely be no shortage of Japanese whisky. The Japanese distilleries have realized how popular their whisky is and are now filling barrels. That does not help the situation now, as the lack of barrels has long since determined the price thanks to scarcity. It is, however, a situation that will be remedied once the current batches of whiskies in barrels mature. The high prices are unlikely to last as more barrels mature. With the popularity of Japanese whisky now well-known, it is doubtful that there will be another significant shortage due to a perception of lack of demand.


About Crystal Imagery

Eric Schuchart decided to take up a hobby in 2001, making personalized engraved glasses for family and friends. They were a hit. Crystal Imagery then transformed from a hobby to a full-time job in 2013 as Sherri Blum, a well-known interior designer for celebrities, partnered with Schuchart. Now, Crystal Imagery offers two techniques for etching. A deep etching technique offers the highest luxury, producing a depth and shadow unmatched by traditional rotary surface etching methods. A UV laser etching offers a better result than CO2 lasers, giving a crisp, precise etching that cuts the surface instead of cracking. Crystal Imagery offers personalized whiskey glasses, flasks, customized beer glasses, crystal ice buckets, wine glasses, and a wealth of other glassware options.


Get custom glassware for your Japanese whisky at