For a year that’s set to be a rousing one for Japanese whisky, 2020 has not started off quite as well as fans around the world would have hoped. We have now entered the decade in which Nikka say we should see an end to the dreaded whisky shortage, yet today we were served a stark reminder that there is a lot of work to be done before that day finally comes.
In news that will disappoint millions around the world, Nikka have announced that they will be discontinuing Taketsuru Pure Malt expressions in March of this year. The NAS, 17, 21 and 25 Year Olds will be removed from supply lines in a bid to tackle the current shortage of mature stocks in the drinks giant’s warehouses.
The range, named after Nikka founder and Japanese whisky legend, Mastaka Taketsuru, has delighted our senses for years through exceptionally well balanced pure malt expressions created from whisky distilled at Yoichi and Miyagikyo. All four whiskies in the range have picked up awards for their excellence, with the 17 Year Old winning “World’s Best Blended Malt” at the World Whiskies Awards in 2018 and the 25 Year Old picking up the same award in 2019 being particular highlights. It would be an understatement to say these whiskies will be sorely missed.
Sadly, this is just the latest in a spate of discontinuations from Nikka and Suntory that includes legendary bottles such as the Hibiki 17 Year Old and the Nikka Coffey Malt and Coffey Grain expressions.
It’s clear for all to see that the whisky shortage has now taken a significant toll on Japanese age-statement expressions, particularly when it comes to bottles from the big producers. However, rather resolutely, the industry continues to grow and shows no sign of slowing down.
Despite their issues with a lack of maturing stock, Nikka and Suntory have managed to release a number of NAS (non-age-statement) whiskies, such as the limited Nikka Wood Finish range and Essence of Suntory collections, that have delivered in quality.
That, combined with fresh and exciting releases from up and coming distilleries such as Chichibu and Akashi, and the continued rise in demand for old & rare Japanese whisky, means there has been plenty to keep everyone interested.
Despite the number of discontinuations, it’s reassuring that, in December 2019, Nikka announced their plans to increase production by 20%, adding new tanks to their Yoichi distillery and building new storage facilities at Miyagikyo. Similarly, Suntory announced plans to build a new $56 million storage facility back in August. With these emergency measures in place, Nikka estimate that the shortage will begin to ease by 2025, and we could even see some of our favourite age-statement whiskies reappearing by 2030.
Nevertheless, losing much-loved expressions like the Nikka Taketsuru range or Hibiki 17 Year Old hurts. Sadly, the best we can do, for now at least, is to stock up on a couple of bottles of each and savour every last drop. At least we all know what we’ll be sipping on this weekend.