Demand is much greater than supply of two premium Suntory labels. Hakushu 12-year and Hibiki 17-year whisky have both won numerous accolades over the years. The drying of their stock comes as a great jolt to whisky-lovers. By Radhika Sikaria
Hibiki whisky is one of the most globally renowned whiskies produced by Japan. Osaka-based distiller, Suntory, announced the halt of two of its premium labels— Hakushu 12 (for US$200 a bottle) and Hibiki 17 (for US$600). Suntory anticipates the sales for Hakushu 12 to end by end of June, while starting from September 2018, the popular premium blend Hibiki 17 will be removed from the main range, and production will end. Suntory boasts a broad portfolio of beverage products, including Jim Beam Kentucky bourbon.
The brand was popularised by Bill Murray in his movie, Lost in Translation. In which Murray portrays an aging actor hired to shoot commercials for the whisky in Japan. “For relaxing times, make it Suntory time,” Murray’s character, Bob Harris, says in one of the commercials. Additionally, both the labels have bagged best whisky titles in numerous taste-test awards over the years, beating competitors from whisky-producing regions such as Scotland, Canada, and United States.
The rise of other Japanese drinks such as sochu in the 80s led to the decline of whisky production then. It is because of this that the 17-year old aged Hibiki and 12-year old Hakusu reserves have dried up. Since 2013, Suntory has invested over $182 million into ramping up production.