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Is Japanese whisky really worth all the hype or price?

lincolnimp
Connoisseur Connoisseur
Posted on 01-08-2015 at 20:01 pm

This is something that I have been wondering for a while now. I asked the same question on a UK forum 3 months ago but I believe the question is still a Valid one so will ask it on WB.

I look with increasing shock at the insane prices that some of the bottles go for at auction and are being asked for in the Marketplace..
On Whiskybase Marketplace on 30th April 5250 euro got you a 1981 33 year Karuizawa?

I understand that some of the distilleries are closed in Japan and that Japanese whisky is highly rated in some quarters but is it realy worth all the hype?

I know that collectors are snapping it up, but as a product I cannot believe the price is justified. There are loads of excellent aged Scotch Whisky for a fraction of the prices still available from closed distilleries and open distilleries for that matter.

I have had some Yamazaki that was OK and some Yoichi that was good , but my experience of stellar Japanese whisky is limited. I understand that there are some excellent bottlings but that is not the issue.

I am interested in whether the product is worth the accolades when compared to Scotch single malts in general not about one or 2 excellent Japanese whisky releases that have come out?

The issue is the crazy prices have spread to all that is Japanese On May 9th there was a Chichibu 2009 port pipe, cask 1397 for 625 euro on Whiskybase Marketplace, it was bottled 2012. So over 200 euro for each year in a cask?

At the moment the  Karuizawa 1980 33 year has rose to a Jaw dropping 6750 euro. I used to think that Port Ellen 1st Release and Brora 1st Release were very expensive  but they look like a real bargain compared to this?

Is that Karuizawa actually a better whisky to drink?

The WB ratings for the 3 bottles are 91.91 Karuizawa, 91.68 Port Ellen, 91.83 Brora. I would say that for drinking pleasure they are pretty evenly matched, so how does the Karuizawa justify its massive price tag, it would appear the whisky is of similar great quality?

I for one fail to see what is to get excited about,from a drinkers perspective, when there is plenty of great Scotch whisky about, certainly from the closed distilleries still available at a fraction of the price.

I get the impression that if a Japanese distillery worker pissed in a cask 30 years ago and someone found it now, in the next year or so, it would be bottled and sold on the Marketpace for a 4 figure sum.

I for one will not be jumping on the bandwagon to collect the stuff or drink it, I am not interested in lining any speculators pockets.

Is all the fuss about Japanese whisky justified, are the huge prices justified, just wondered what other forum members views are on this one?

.

 

Whisky Hamster
Member Senior Senior Member
Posted on 01-08-2015 at 20:19 pm

When I mentioned the subject to acquainted long time whisky connoisseurs and shop owners they unanimously replied that this is mostly an irrational craze. There are, of course, rare old coveted bottles of extraordinary quality. But especially anything new is currently priced above and beyond reason, save some entry level NAS malts. Definitely the wrong time to start buying Japanese. happy

Oh Laphroaig, where art thou?
s_nonjatta
Member Senior Senior Member
Posted on 01-08-2015 at 20:21 pm

What people don't realize is that these prices are driven by a very small group of (admittedly, well-heeled) people in very specific geographical locations. There is, however, a trickle-down effect in the sense that "real whisky fans/drinkers" (and I know that is a whole can of worms to define that, but let's just assume there is such a thing, for the sake of argument) who used to buy and actually drink Karuizawa and now can no longer compete with these insane prices at auctions, are forced to compete against other "real whisky fans/drinkers" for other (non-Karuizawa) Japanese whisky.. and as a result of that, prices keep rising by significant percentages (even over a few months you can see huge jumps in prices here in Japan)... So we are now in a situation where you have to pay more for a 3yo single cask Japanese whisky than you had to pay (say two years ago) for a 28yo Japanese whisky [this is just one example, and I could be more specific and give a whole list of examples...but I am on holiday so I won't happy]

As to whether the Karuizawa liquid is really worth those prices, well that's all relative (i.e. depends on your bank account and how much you have to think about spending said amounts). You have to ask yourself if ANY liquid is worth such a price... 
lincolnimp
Connoisseur Connoisseur
Posted on 01-08-2015 at 21:44 pm
s_nonjatta wrote:

What people don't realize is that these prices are driven by a very small group of (admittedly, well-heeled) people in very specific geographical locations. There is, however, a trickle-down effect in the sense that "real whisky fans/drinkers" (and I know that is a whole can of worms to define that, but let's just assume there is such a thing, for the sake of argument) who used to buy and actually drink Karuizawa and now can no longer compete with these insane prices at auctions, are forced to compete against other "real whisky fans/drinkers" for other (non-Karuizawa) Japanese whisky.. and as a result of that, prices keep rising by significant percentages (even over a few months you can see huge jumps in prices here in Japan)... So we are now in a situation where you have to pay more for a 3yo single cask Japanese whisky than you had to pay (say two years ago) for a 28yo Japanese whisky [this is just one example, and I could be more specific and give a whole list of examples...but I am on holiday so I won't happy]

As to whether the Karuizawa liquid is really worth those prices, well that's all relative (i.e. depends on your bank account and how much you have to think about spending said amounts). You have to ask yourself if ANY liquid is worth such a price... 
 
 
 
You may be right, but at the moment it is hardly a trickle down effect, it is more like an avalanche.
I think since a particular Japanese whisky won world whisky of the year or whatever it was, people have just thought, its Japanees so it must be good and bought anything and everything.
It is greedy speculators that are pushing the prices up.
 
 What I want to know is when that brave person, who opens up a 6000 euro bottle, do they think " hell yes that was a bloody good buy and well worth the money"? 
(If indeed there are brave people like this, then they have my greatest respect, truly )



  Edited on 01-08-2015 at 21:44 pm
BXpress
Expert Senior Senior Expert
Posted on 01-08-2015 at 22:13 pm

i think there is no problem for people who have money and knowledge, and who genuinely appreciate Karuizawas. however it is quite dangerous for the average Joe investor who puts all his financial hopes in those bottles. one must not forget that the hype is spawned mainly by the Malt Maniac awards. even still, the hype is a by-product of the Scotch Whisky hype. if the Whisky boom comes to an end, consequences will be even harder on those who invested in Karuizawas. once people stop caring about Scotch they will care even less about Japanese Whisky, which in my opinion will be a very short lived bubble.

lincolnimp
Connoisseur Connoisseur
Posted on 01-08-2015 at 22:57 pm
BXpress wrote:

i think there is no problem for people who have money and knowledge, and who genuinely appreciate Karuizawas. however it is quite dangerous for the average Joe investor who puts all his financial hopes in those bottles. one must not forget that the hype is spawned mainly by the Malt Maniac awards. even still, the hype is a by-product of the Scotch Whisky hype. if the Whisky boom comes to an end, consequences will be even harder on those who invested in Karuizawas. once people stop caring about Scotch they will care even less about Japanese Whisky, which in my opinion will be a very short lived bubble.


 

Very true BXpress, wise words.

 

You should never buy what you cannot afford to drink yourself.



  Edited on 01-08-2015 at 23:01 pm
karloff
Specialist Specialist
Posted on 01-08-2015 at 23:58 pm

A lot of good points have been made here. My experience with Japanese whisky taste wise has been very positive and I have only tried standard bottling's. There was one that was really bland and that was Suntory Old Whisky. I have had about six different bottles and they were all gifts from friends and family. Personally I wouldn't buy any at the prices they are today. When I go to my local whisky shop I walk straight past the Japanese whisky because I know I can get a high end Bourbon or Scotch for what I would pay for an average Japanese whisky, and until something changes, that's how it's going to stay. My budget is limited and I am been totally priced out of the Japanese market. Sad really but I will lose no sleep.

I'd rather have a bottle in front of me than a frontal lobotomy. Tom Waits
oscarswanson
Member Senior Senior Member
Posted on 02-08-2015 at 04:03 am

It is worth what someone is willing to pay.

Yes it's been hyped, the price has gone thru the roof. I wish I knew how to do this.

I'd sell mine by the inch. Let's see $10.00 per inch x 2 = $20.00. LMFAO.

I liked the japanese whisky's I have had so far but have had a hard time finding ANY around these parts latley Except Hibiki harmony. PERIOD.........

It must be part of a master plan and know what it is !!!!!!!!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Offically retired My Collection
St. Pauli
Connoisseur Connoisseur
Posted on 02-08-2015 at 06:38 am

I think that most of you are right, and from a fan's perspective, the price is absolute bollocks.I want to give the discussion a little twist by using  general economic arguments. 

Normally the price is a result of a couple of elements:
- a mix of production costs and fixed cost,
- the (perceived) quality and
- (perceived) scarcity.

To make a short analysis, such high prices cannot be the result of production costs and fixed costs. Somehow, it will be indeed a mix between the (perceived) quality and scarcity. Please note that when mentioning quality, I put the word perceived between brackets. The question is how to define quality, and I believe that it is subjective to a certain level. That's why it is difficult to say that the whisky is top notch, just because some people (OK admittedly, quite some experts) called it very good. Personally I believe that the high ratings are a result of the qualification that the whisky received by the experts. Even then, the quality is about the same as Scotch from distilleries.

Consequently, it can only be  (perceived) scarcity that is affecting this price so much. A result of scarcity can be speculation. Some say that the whisky will always keep a significant level of its value or even increases as it will at least become less scarce in the future. As long as there are buyers with deep pockets, prices won't drop that fast. On the other hand, if there would be a lot of old Karuzaiwas coming on the market, then prices could drop.

My conclusion is that unfortunately, there is not so much to do and these bottles will be available for the happy few. My pockets are certainly not so deep, so I rather focus on drinking whisky that is not so scarce and speculated on.

Paul

ovanpuyvelde
Expert Senior Senior Expert
Posted on 02-08-2015 at 13:02 pm

Being a recent Whisky lover, I never even got the chance to own a good Japanese Whisky. This is hugely disappointing. I started liking Single Malt Whisky in April this year and Yamazaki Distiller's Reserve was one of the very first bottles in my collection. I liked it and started to look for more Japanese Whiskies (Chichibu, Hibiki, Yamazaki) but at that moment the prices were already going through the roof.

I bought Jim Murray's Whisky Bible 2015 but now I realize that famous reviewers like him spark the ridiculous overpricing of certain bottles. If these guys rate a bottle very highly, it doesn't take long before the prices sky-rocket. I have never read my Whisky Bible again.

I decided to focus more on affordable high value for my money Whiskies.

This is just the humble opinion of a beginning Whisky lover wink

  Edited on 02-08-2015 at 13:05 pm
lincolnimp
Connoisseur Connoisseur
Posted on 02-08-2015 at 14:03 pm
ovanpuyvelde wrote:

Being a recent Whisky lover, I never even got the chance to own a good Japanese Whisky. This is hugely disappointing. I started liking Single Malt Whisky in April this year and Yamazaki Distiller's Reserve was one of the very first bottles in my collection. I liked it and started to look for more Japanese Whiskies (Chichibu, Hibiki, Yamazaki) but at that moment the prices were already going through the roof.

I bought Jim Murray's Whisky Bible 2015 but now I realize that famous reviewers like him spark the ridiculous overpricing of certain bottles. If these guys rate a bottle very highly, it doesn't take long before the prices sky-rocket. I have never read my Whisky Bible again.

I decided to focus more on affordable high value for my money Whiskies.

This is just the humble opinion of a beginning Whisky lover wink

 

This is the rigt way for anyone to go forward and good advice. I stopped taking Jim Murray seriously when he awarded Ardbeg 10, 97 points in the 2008 Whisky bible?



JWvH
Member Senior Senior Member
Posted on 02-08-2015 at 20:56 pm

A bottle of Karuizawa Spirit of Asama 48% was part of a swap-deal I made with a Belgian WB member. In stead of sending eachother the bottles he insisted in bringing his botltle and picking up my bottles personaly. Just before we made the appointment he asked me to look into his collection in order to choose a whisky from an open bottle from which he than would bring a sample. I chose the Yamazaki sherry cask 2013. I have to say - the whisky was oké. A score in de mid eighties or slightly above seemed appropriate. And then there's is a certain Mr. Murray who claimes that this is the best whisky worldwide in 2015. I realy have my doubts about mr. Murray's objectivity. But what happened pricewise after the announcement in the Bible was made is history. Price of the Yamazaki went sky -high and in its footsteps al lot of other Japanese whisy's as well. For example: the karuizawa spirit of Asama I bought for 63 euro's. Now they are asking up to 600 euro's for these bottles. Nearly 10 times what I paid for it! Is that insane? It absolutely is especialy concidering the quality of this whisky which is also oké but by no means worth 600 euro's. 

At this moment it seems that every bottle with Japanese markings on it is in very high demand and very expensive. Wether it is Karuizawa or Hanyu or even the more 'simple' brands like Yoichi, Nikka Taketsuru, Hibiki or Yamazaki 10 - just to name a few - prices are very high. Japanese distilleries announcing to stop certain bottlings does not help either -it just creates more demand. 
Some of you say it's a bubble and it'll soon burst. Buyers or investers of these 4,5 6 thousand euro bottles are taking big risks if that is whats going to happen. We don't have to envy them. But maybe the last laugh is on them. I was at Malts of Scotland (a German IB) a couple of days ago and the man told me is wasn't going to be any cheaper in the future. His firm believe was that prices will keep rising for demand is still growing. 
Sometimes I wish I had a nice cristal ball to look into, but i don't have it. Of course whisky is made for drinking - and in the end it will be drunk by someone - at least most of it I suppose, Investing in whisky is another reality though. I can tell you that I sold a couple of my bottles of Sprit of Asama a while ago. For that kind of money I can buy al lot of other very nice bottles. 
  
My Collection
lincolnimp
Connoisseur Connoisseur
Posted on 03-08-2015 at 10:46 am

On reflection I think that the Insane prices being asked for Japanese whisky is spreading to the Scotch bottles now on the Marketplace.

When I see bottles at stupid prices I just think it shows that the seller knows nothing about the value of whisky in general.
Of course I could be wrong and they may indeed know the value of whisky , they may just be greedy.
It was not too long ago that a vast  majority of bottles on the Marketplace were fairly priced, thankfully there are still some sellers asking a fair price?
  Edited on 03-08-2015 at 11:19 am
karloff
Specialist Specialist
Posted on 03-08-2015 at 11:20 am

Would it be fair to say some sellers take advantage of peoples geographical location where a lot of these bottles are hard to come by.

I'd rather have a bottle in front of me than a frontal lobotomy. Tom Waits
lincolnimp
Connoisseur Connoisseur
Posted on 03-08-2015 at 12:12 pm
karloff wrote:

Would it be fair to say some sellers take advantage of peoples geographical location where a lot of these bottles are hard to come by.


Yes I think it would, but I still think some sellers are just plain greedy, optomistic, fanciful or perhaps not that knowledgable or willful negligence when it comes to what a  fair price is.


Anyone of the above may suit?

4950 euro for a Balblair 1965 OB, a real bargain by anyone's standard.

I suppose chancing your arm is nothing new is it?


  Edited on 03-08-2015 at 12:21 pm
St. Pauli
Connoisseur Connoisseur
Posted on 04-08-2015 at 09:49 am

Still, the concept of a fair price is not determined solely by the buyer. I understand the emotions, somehow I feel the same. Yet, when thinking rationally I simply cannot agree. The only thing "we" (as a group of whisky aficionados) could do is neglect all of these absurd high offers. In this way, the buyer states that the price is too high and the seller has to lower it's price.

mrgood
Expert Junior Junior Expert
Posted on 04-08-2015 at 16:56 pm
lincolnimp wrote:

When I see bottles at stupid prices I just think it shows that the seller knows nothing about the value of whisky in general.

I don't know about that.  I think it's the BUYERS-that-know-nothing you need to worry about (or worse, a buyer who THINKS they know something but actually knows very little).  If a seller sets a ridiculous price and a buyer bites.  That's not on the seller, it's on the buyer.  


If a seller has a bottle for sale for a year with no takers, then yeah, that might be a sign of an ignorant seller, but if they sell it in a reasonable time frame, then they've done well.  It's like any other industry, a seller is going to try to get the maximum amount they can.  If they manage to sell a £200 Karuizawa for £2000, that's not lack of knowledge, it's savvy business.

Pauli is right that buyers dictate the value (by refusing to buy).  The only way to stop/reverse the inflation is for buyers to stop paying silly prices... but alas, that is pretty much out of our control.
  Edited on 04-08-2015 at 16:58 pm
karloff
Specialist Specialist
Posted on 04-08-2015 at 19:52 pm

Mrgood,some good points but there is a very fine line between savvy business and ripping someone off. Which ever way you look at it.

I'd rather have a bottle in front of me than a frontal lobotomy. Tom Waits
lincolnimp
Connoisseur Connoisseur
Posted on 04-08-2015 at 19:54 pm

You may call it savvy business mrgood but I still call it taking the piss and been greedy pure and simple.

I suppose you can dress it up anyway you want, it matters not.
There is a difference between putting a bottle up at the extremity of a valuation on Whiskbase and hoping you get that one lucky customer to putting a price on a bottle with a ludicrous price tag when that price tag bears no resemblance to what the bottle is actually worth?
  Edited on 04-08-2015 at 19:58 pm
lincolnimp
Connoisseur Connoisseur
Posted on 04-08-2015 at 19:56 pm

Karloff we must have been writing our responses a the same time, using a tablet takes me alot longer.

St. Pauli
Connoisseur Connoisseur
Posted on 04-08-2015 at 22:23 pm

Let me put it differently: a price is a financial agreement between seller and buyer. Just offering a bottle for a ridiculous amount of money is NOT a price. Whenever a fool is stupid enough to actually pay the ludicrous amount, then we have a price... So I still advise to ignore the people that ask amounts that are sky high. What may be more worrying is to see the prices in auctions. But to be honest, also prices of "regular" 12 yo Scotch can get quite insane.

And don't forget that the industry (both distilleries and retail) has increased prices too. It's sad, so I'm glad to have quite some bottles in my cabinet wink

  Edited on 04-08-2015 at 22:27 pm
lincolnimp
Connoisseur Connoisseur
Posted on 04-08-2015 at 22:54 pm

Actually, thats not quite  right because the price offered is still, the price that the item is offered for sale.

When "a fool" as you call them, agrees to buy, then  that is a contract, you have made a contractual obligation to buy a product that was offered for sale at a 'price'.
Anyway the real issue is yes, we can choose to ignore them but, I think it it better to let people know they are extracting the urine and treating everyone as a potential mug. If we say nothing then how will they ever know and more importantly learn?



  Edited on 05-08-2015 at 01:41 am
Lommen
Expert Junior Junior Expert
Posted on 06-08-2015 at 08:14 am

Of course it is worth it, its all about supply and demand.


  Edited on 06-08-2015 at 09:55 am
Armin Fuchs
Expert Senior Senior Expert
Posted on 10-08-2015 at 09:30 am

Hi,

what I (& FineSpirits_butler1) found, might be interesting:

It's a very difference of the style/quality of new releases (mostly …):
Nikka and Yamazaki try to make a kind of Whisky that fits to the 'old style' traditional Scotch Whiskies -
it's astonishing, but the Nikka 'Yoichi' 12yo or the Yamazaki 18yo or also the Taketsuru 21yo
give you the atmosphere and the direction of taste from the old quality
that we are hardly missing in many 'new' releases of Scotch Whisky …
And the prices of these new releases are not really high! (… I paid about 55€ for the 'Yoichi' 12 a few months ago)

On the other hand: we all know that the prices of ALL good drams are stupid nowadays …

Kind regards!
cavalier66
Expert Senior Senior Expert
Posted on 10-08-2015 at 13:16 pm

got a spare £6000 to taste a few? Assuming you "win" the lottery to get the right to pay the £6000 that is...

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