How To Start A Japanese Whisky Collection

So you’re passionate about Japanese whisky, dedicated to finding the best bottles on the market and want to amass a collection that will impress your friends, look stunning in your whisky cabinet and become your pride and joy for years to come – here’s how it’s done.

Starting your Collection

When starting a collection of Japanese whisky, you should first decide what type of bottle you are looking to collect, or whether you want it all.

Do you want just single cask whisky? Maybe you want rare bottles that will increase in value? Or maybe you want the best single malts from around Japan?

Understanding what you want is key and this is something that we can’t help you with. You have to decide what you are most passionate about and go with it. If you’re unsure, don’t worry, you can start with some particularly exciting bottles and expand into a chosen field as you go.

Today, we will be looking at three particular collections, and how to get started on them. If you decide to take another route further down the line, these can be used as rough guides.

Single Malt Collection

The Japanese single malt collection is one that is very easy to get started, with some of the most popular expressions in the country sitting in this category. As you go on, you may want to add more obscure and rare bottles and new releases, but there are several whiskies that are simply must-buys for those looking to start a collection.

The Yamazaki 12 and 18 Year Olds are two such bottles. Coming from the most popular operational distillery in Japan, these gems are the pinnacle of Japanese mastery and craftsmanship in whisky. They’ve picked up countless awards, scintillated many palates and brought joy to millions.

These bottles have been increasingly difficult to come by in the face of the ongoing Japanese whisky shortage, with many suspecting that production has been slowed while younger stock matures.

The Hakushu 12 and 18 are also stunning expressions, in both quality and appearance, and with the recent news of the former being discontinued, it’s one that you don’t want to miss the chance to get your hands on while you can. Its value will no doubt sky-rocket in years to come, making it a very valuable addition to your collection indeed.

If you were to start with the four mentioned expressions, you would be off to a good start. From there you can expand into the likes of single malt from Nikka’s Yoichi and Miyagikyo and Ichiro Akuto’s Chichibu, three distilleries that are currently producing particularly elegant, limited and collectible single malt whisky, among others.

Where you go from there is up to you and there are literally hundreds of incredible expressions to choose from.

Limited Edition Collection

If you are looking for something altogether more limited, rarer and more valuable, a limited edition collection may be what you’re after.

Distilleries and brands across Japan have released a range of exciting limited whiskies in recent years and these, while a little more pricey, hold significant investment value. What’s more, their label and bottle designs can be absolutely stunning.

Hibiki whisky is one of the best places to start. They have released two gorgeous limited editions of their world-famous 21 Year Old – the Mount Fuji Edition and their travel retail exclusive. Limited in numbers, these two will stand out in any collection, and we certainly know that they hold great liquid inside – the 21 Year Old has now won more awards than we would care to count.

Other great limited choices include the annual Yoichi and Miyagikyo releases, Mars Komagatake Limited releases and the truly outstanding Ichiro’s Malt ‘World Blended’ expressions from 2018 and 2019, both of which ran out winners at the annual World Whiskies Awards.

These are just a few of the limited edition whiskies on offer from Japan’s master craftsman, with many more being released every single year, but if you’re going to start a collection of limited edition Japanese whisky, you really can’t go wrong with these expressions.

Single Cask Collection

Single Cask Japanese whisky is both hard to get your hands on and expensive, sometimes very expensive. If you want to start a collection in this category, you better have deep pockets, but rest assured, you’ll definitely get your money’s worth.

Coming from single casks, these whiskies are generally limited to between just 200 and 450 bottles. That’s right, only an incredibly finite number of bottles of each expression are produced and this is reflected in the price, investment value and availability of these.

Single cask expressions from the biggest and best distilleries in Japan can sell out in seconds, and if you’re one of the lucky ones to get your hands on a bottle, you become one of a handful of people to own that little piece of history.

When it comes to selecting your first single cask whiskies for your collection, Mars Komagatake is a great place to begin. Their 1990 27 Year Old, from cask #1040, just picked up the award of World’s Best Single Cask whisky at this year’s World Whiskies Awards and they’ve had similar success with other bottles too.

You’ll also find incredible single cask expressions from Ichiro’s Malt & Grain Chichibu distillery. They release new whiskies annually and they are always well-received. Until fairly recently, it had been difficult to pick up Chichibu whisky outside of Japan, but thanks to the distillery’s growing prestige and popularity, they are becoming more readily available, making the collector’s job (that’s you) a lot easier.

Chichibu and Mars are fantastic ways to start a single cask collection, but when it comes down to it, there is only one king and one queen in this category.

Karuizawa and Hanyu are Japan’s most popular silent distilleries. Since closing their doors due to a lack of demand, the remaining stock has soared in both value and popularity. Today, they are among some of the most expensive, rare and collectible whiskies in the entire world.

Adding a Karuizawa, whether it be from the Noh Series, Shibari Series or any other for that matter, really would be the crown jewel in any whisky collection, and the same goes for Hanyu.

It’s Time to Get Started

Whether you decide to follow the recommendations from one of these collections or go out on your own is entirely up to you. There are thousands of brilliant bottles of Japanese whisky on the market today and we stock many of them here at dekanta.

Single Malt, Limited Edition, Single Cask or just weird and wonderful bottles are there by the plenty, so if you’re going to start a collection, there’s a plethora to choose from.

As you go, you may start to look for bottles that are much harder to get your hands on than the ones mentioned here. If you’re struggling to find one, don’t hesitate to contact us and we’ll see how we can help.

Happy hunting!