To kickoff “Japanese Whisky Treasure Troves”, which is an insight into Japanese whiskies of yesteryear, Whiskies R Us will explore the unknown, the hidden and forgotten stores of a long lost era around Hyogo, Japan. First off, among many adventures, is the rustic store Liquor Land Ikeda, in Kobe Nishi-ku, on route 175. I have known about this shop for many years, a shop I always wanted to visit but never did as it always seemed to be in the opposite direction I was going, until now that is. This store, which took me back in time, had quite a few historic bottlings on its dusty and sun soaked shelves. However, today I will uncover Suntory’s Imperial blend. This not only marks the first of many entries to come, but a new and exciting chapter for readers of Whiskies R Us.
The “Imperial” blend was often labeled a whisky of “superior quality”, and at times was advertised with the slogan “suitable enough for an emperor”, quite relevant given the brand naming. This whisky, derived from distilling techniques around the time of 1964 (Tokyo Olympics), is said to contain only the best of the best malt from the Yamazaki distillery. Once described as Suntory’s masterpiece from their portfolio at the time, this blend was apparently in production for at least 40 years, with various bottle shapes and volumes during this period. The picture above appears to be the “Imperial” blend from the 1980’s (ABV43%), which the decanter, and quite a beautiful one at that, is hand crafted Kagami crystal. I have come across this so called extravagant blend on a few occasions, it generally retails in most mom & pop stores between 9,000 to 11,000 yen (although I did have the opportunity to pick it up cheaper), expensive really, and at a price most likely still from the late 80’s to early 90’s. It can be sourced much cheaper at auction on the Internet. Rumor has it that the Kagami crystal decanter arguably retains the most value of the blend, while the whisky within holds the remaining, that plus a few thousand yen could be attributed to the name “Imperial” itself. Regardless, this blend fascinates me (I must admit that it does have a lot to do with the decanter), something I hope to consume sooner or later if I can find it at a much more reasonable price, but this amongst the many treasure troves I have come across must wait its turn. The “Imperial” appears to have ceased production around the time of the millennium.