Now Is the Best Time to Try These 4 Small Distilleries

Japanese whiskies, especially those older than 12 years, keep selling out. This is due to enormous demand in Japan, partly thanks to the popular TV show Massan and partly because bottles from whisky giants Suntory and Nikka have been racking up most of the awards at international competitions. Yet another reason is that the famous whisky critic Jim Murray proclaimed a single malt from the Yamazaki distillery “the best in the world” — and the bottle practically flew off the shelves.

Japanese whisky is in such high demand that retailers are finding it difficult to get their hands on more. The result is that Japanese whisky is becoming increasingly hard to come by. According to wine director Jesse Salazar of Union Square Wines & Spirits, the New York company “tried to place an order for Japanese whisky,” but it was impossible to fill. “Anything older than 12 years old has become something of a unicorn.”

This sudden demand came as something of a surprise for Suntory and Nikka. To keep up, both companies are pulling back many of their popular age statement whiskies to put new whiskies on the market instead. The Suntory Harmony, for example, which tastes remarkably similar to the 12 year old, is now the central focus of Suntory alongside the 17 year old and 21 year old.

This spike in demand means that smaller distillers have begun catering toward Western markets. Ji-whisky distilleries, who have hitherto focused mostly on their local markets, have been selling more and more to Europe and the Americas. We at dekantā have been busy stocking up on these wonderful, exotic whiskies in the past few months. Below are a few whisky makers we recommend you try out while Nikka and Suntory do their revamping:


A favorite among whisky lovers, the Chichibu distillery makes its own high quality whisky and bottles the remaining Hanyu stock under the Ichiro’s Malt Card Series label. A bottle from Chichibu is worth a fortune, regardless of whether you intend to drink it or not. Take a look at our stock here.

Shinshu Mars

Strictly speaking, Mars is not a ji-whisky maker, as the company markets its products all over Japan. But this small distillery is nevertheless one of Japan’s most charming. Mars has a surprisingly versatile selection of whiskies, offering everything from the very cheap to collector’s items. We wholeheartedly recommend you to take a look at their selection as this company produces some of the best whiskies in Japan, in our humble view. Take a look at our stock here.

Fuji Gotemba

The Fuji Gotemba distillery is located in the small town of Gotemba at the foot of Mount Fuji. As you would expect, any whisky maker bold enough to make whisky from the water of the mythical mountain of Japan must be making good stuff. And so it is. The distillery is owned by Kirin Seagram, which continues to succeed in a market that’s grown so big, Nikka and Suntory can’t even keep up.
At the moment we only have two bottles from this distillery in stock. Grab one before its too late!


A distillery located in Fukushima prefecture, Sasanokawa makes a nice ji-whisky called Cherry Whisky. Although the name might not be the most original name ever invented by man, the whisky is surprisingly good. Bonus: Cherry has a very agreeable price label. So what are you waiting for? Give it a try!

More to come…