Friday, July 22, 2011

Calming Blend

Either I have been walking around the last decade with my eyes closed, or recently, for various possible reasons, new additions of home brand whisky have been sprouting up on the shelves of Japanese supermarkets. I’d like to think with confidence it’s the aforementioned, as an avid pursuer of Japanese whisky I’d hate to think it was the former. Days after writing the post “Bang for Buck Blend”, I popped into another one of many local supermarkets out of curiosity. There, on the shelves in Coop, were 1.8 litre plastic bottles of New Calm blended whisky.  This home brand blend also sports a heavily cheap looking label, but the thing that sets New Calm apart from the Max Value blend is the significant and blatantly recognizable Nikka plastic cap. For anyone who has stepped foot in a Japanese supermarket will know there is a wide variety of cheap blends in large plastic bottles, such as the widely available King Whisky “Rin”. Such whiskies come in a variety of sizes and are dirt cheap, cheaper it seems than the recent addition of Coops blend. This is somewhat interesting while concerning. Even the Black Nikka blend that comes in 1.8 litres is cheaper (1850 Yen) than New Calm (2400 Yen), even though it sports the same plastic Nikka cap. How could this be, does this mean that the quality of the home brand blend obviously produced by Nikka exceeds the taste and quality of Black Nikka? It could be as simple as a branded whisky being marketed under a home brand, as it often happens with other products, but why the price variance? Can it be that New Calm contains finer ingredients? Call me paranoid but it’s just not logical and there’s more than meets the eye. I wouldn’t buy either of the blends but out of curiosity it would be interesting to compare New Calm with Black Nikka.


  1. Well you are our man in the field Clint so maybe you should take one for the team Clint and try them both : )
    I reckon this might be an(admitted cheap) extention(by someone else) of Suntory's Highball campaign. Whisky as an alternative to beer, wine, sake, etc as an everyday drinker rather than just an elitest spirit. Or.....just a means to make a quick buck : )
    If this is a Nikka then maybe one small step, start here then in a few years you end up drinking Vintage Casks.
    Anyway, I love these real world tid bits about Japanese whisky, keep up the great work Clint.

  2. This is very interesting. Do you think we can conclude that Nikka is producing whisky for these own brands? Does this presage a change in approach that might allow more trading of whisky between firms in Japan (so we could have more traded whisky in blends)? Perhaps that is taking too much from this, but interesting nevertheless

  3. Certainly happy to take one for the team Brian, although the size (1.8L bottle) is slightly off putting if New Calm were to be absolutely rancid. Sizing is another interesting attribute in itself. Why would the home brand blend (suggesting it be from Nikka) only come in the massive size? This could simply be just a means to make a quick buck, but even so I would have thought they would have have gone about it in a different way instead of saturating supermarkets with home brand blends. Wouldn't it be more beneficial as a company, even though while making a quick buck, market it under the distiller, what's the term brand awareness? I certainly like the suggestion that the home brand blends can be the new alternative to other alcohol beverages and not just a spirit for the elite, but I thought that would have been achieved with the massive Suntory highball campaign that started a few years ago and continues today? Without repeating myself, I still keep asking myself why the price variance? The same volume but priced more than other Nikka blends. Chris (Nonjatta), I certainly think the conclusion is there that Nikka is producing whisky for these home brands, the question is why? It could well be so we can have more traded whisky in blends, I may be looking into this too much but I certainly feel it could be a presage.
    Due to the encouragement, I will keep my eye on this and continue to add posts on this topic when something arises.