Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Bang for Buck Blend?

Regardless of which city or country you reside in, there are always a handful of supermarkets that sell their own home brand products. This can range from an imitation packet of your favourite biscuits to cheap nasty soft drink. But how many of you can actually say they have seen home brand whisky? I believe the British supermarket TESCO has their own branded whisky that includes not only blends but also single malts. But other then this and in my time, I have not seen or heard of any other establishments that do, until I went meat shopping for my long weekend BBQ.

On the shelf at one of the local Suma supermarkets appropriately named Max Value, a heavily cheap looking label caught my eye. I didn’t know whether to be appalled or amused when I further inspected the Top Valu (value without an “e”) blended whisky. For a shockingly low price of 598 yen (about $7), a 720 ml bottle of blended whisky with an ABV of 37% can be yours, providing you want to take the challenge.

The whisky that also comes in a 2.7 plastic litre bottle states that it’s a smooth drinking whisky with an appealing taste. Propped right up next to the soda water section, one can only assume this has been massed produced to cater for the highball boom. Unfortunately the label didn’t state any specifics (not that I could clearly work out) but out of interest I will try and obtain more information as to where some of the whisky has come from and whether in fact it is distilled in Japan. It certainly makes you wonder considering two of the biggest Japanese distilleries don’t even have their cheapest 700ml blends under a retail price of 1000 yen.


  1. I am thinking there is a heavy dose of caramel coloring in there...

    Trader Joe's a smaller grocery store chain here sells their branded blended scotch for $9.99 in the 750mL bottle.

  2. Considering you can get two proper single malts, Yoichi and Miyagkiyo NAS(500mls), for around Y1050 a bottle in Japan, why would you bother?
    Also Nikkas Malt Club, Mars Amber Blend, Monde Crystal blend and Kirin 50% are around the Y1000 mark.
    I'd be happy to pay the whopping 4-5 bucks extra for these.

  3. Brian not sure when you last bought your Yoichi or Miyagikyo NAS (500ml) but they are currently 1450 yen and have been so for a while in Japan. In fact depending on which supermarket or shop you go to both NAS seem to be accompanied with either a glass or a can of soda water, and occasionally you can pick it up for 1350 yen on special. I agree with the home brand blend, why bother, I actually would prefer to pay an extra 3 dollars and get the Akashi White Oak blend for 950 yen. While I'm here, I haven't come across Mars Amber Blend at this stage, is it readily available?

  4. Chris-Whiskywall, I keep hearing a lot about Trader Joe's. Is it a nation wide supermarket? I like a particular mystery malt Islay called Finlaggan and other readers have told me that Trader Joe's stock it at a cheap price but it always walks out the door so quick that they can never get there hands on it. What's their Japanese malt selection like?

  5. Clint,
    Fair call on the current pricing of the Yoichi and Miyagiyo but even then your still talking less than AUD$20.
    The Mars Amber Blend has been available in Tokyo since at least since last november. Bought mine at Shinanoya who also ship throughout Japan as does Rakuten online though for a bit more(price of the whisky).
    Did you read the nonjatta story about the Akashi blend. Never mind the contents I enjoyed both this and the Amber Blend and my friends and girlfriend enjoyed both as a mixer.

  6. Thanks for the info Brian, I have not come across the Mars Amber blend in Kansai but it seems like going online is the way to go as you suggested. I did read the nonjatta story about the Akashi blend, regardless I enjoyed it also at a BBQ, mind you I will be honest, I had it with a chunk of ice which I don't normally do. Perhaps it was the extremely humid weather.

  7. Update: in a local Co-op supermarket the retail price there for a Yoichi/Miyagikyo NAS was 1580 yen, so it certainly fluctuates at 100 yen between places.

  8. Clint - Trader Joe's locations are sprinkled across the US. Finlaggan is ~$17 - not a bad price! Where I am there is always some in stock though. Each Trader Joe's is a little different with what they carry, but I haven't seen any Japanese whisky there. But there are only 3 Japanese expressions available in the US anyways: Yamazak 12, 18 and Hibiki 12.