Side Mission: Grab that Bottle!

Side Mission: Grab that Bottle!

Posted by James Zhang on 1st Aug 2019

I love whisky. For me, I always have a little after kids are in bed, which symbols the conclusion of the day. I will sit down in front of my PC, pour a shot or two into my Fujiyama glass (more details) and have it straight. It is the most relaxing time of the day (unfortunately no cigar is allowed in the house) since I can finally enjoy a bit of quiet period.

(Pouring the whisky into my lovely Tajima glass each night signals the conclusion of the day)

If you are a whisky lover, you probably know that Japan produce some really cool whisky. Yamazaki, Taketsuru, Hakushu, just to name a few. If you have been following their pricing trend, you would know that the price of Japanese whisky skyrocketed in the last few years, with virtually no availability for the aged bottles, thanks to them winning a few major awards and the fact they are indeed brilliant drinkers! Not only the overseas market has little supply, I found that it is impossible to find them in Japan as well, at least not in Tokyo and Osaka. So, my colleague and I have a mission while driving around in Japan: scout the local liquor shops in order to find the bottles that slipped through the net.

(The good old days: Hibiki 21 use to be a self-serve at K&S office, now I can't even afford it myself)


Yamaya Liquor Shop

My go to store in Japan is the Yamaya Liquorestore. They are the largest specialize liquor chain in Japan: their shop is huge, filled with all sorts of liquor, local and imported. They have a premium section loaded with expensive stuff like the Château Lafite Rothschild, the Krug, etc. And of course, they have a premium whisky selection. Not only the local ones, the price of Scotch is very reasonable, and certainly much better than here in Sydney.

Given their buying power, their larger stores are often allocated with some premium, hard to find whisky and sold at the recommended retail price, which is certainly a rare thing these days as many smaller shops are jacking the price up. I use to score multiple bottles of Yamazaki limited edition at the Toyama store in one go, however these days it is limited to one bottle per customer per day :\

(A YaMaYa store in Japan)

This year my score is the Moon Glow Crescent 2018 by Wakatsuru Distillery. I haven’t try that yet but seems it is quite a limited release and kinda rare.

(This year I scored the Moon Glow Crescent 2018 by Wakatsuru Distillery at the Yamaya Sanjo store)

Smaller shops

This is kinda tricky. Sometimes when we are driving, we stop by the small independent shops if we can, and occasionally I can find a bottle here and there. I scored a couple bottles of Taketsuru 21 (now discontinued) for a whopping 150USD / bottle.

Department store & Supermarket

Probably 5 years ago it was still relatively easy to find premium Japanese whisky in department stores and the supermarkets, however in recent years I haven’t been able to. My guess is because the department stores are easily accessible by overseas visitors, who are particularly keen to buy these thanks to the lack of availability and high price outside of Japan. Naturally, the department stores are the first ones to sold out. For supermarkets, due to their lack of specialty they won’t receive any decent allocation of the premium whiskies.

At the airport

At the major airports, the duty-free store may have a bottle or two, however I never bought those because they basically give you a nice bottle with the same wine, then jack up the price by two times, in the name of “Airport Limited Edition”. I personally think it is a rip off, yet they are often sold out.

(The limited edition rip off: change a bottle and charge 50K Japanese Yen when the exact same wine could be purchased at half price, albeit a regular bottle design; yamazakiwhiskytour.blogspot.com)

Some of my collections

I am not drinking them anytime soon :D

(My collections, I think the baby bottles are even harder to collect)


Good luck hunting in Japan!