Thursday, June 27, 2013

Evoking Nostalgia: Mercian Vintage Karuizawa

"San nin dake de tsukuru kara takusan tsukurenai” is the catch copy given to this Mercian Karuizawa advertisement that was placed in the Whisky Magazine (Japanese version) Issue.31 June 2003. Simply translated - “It’s Made (Distilled) by Only Three Men, Therefore its Not Made (Distilled) in Large Volumes”. Perhaps it was Mercian’s way of saying “it’s about the quality and craftsmanship of Karuizawa and not about quantity”. This brand ad, which I randomly dug up and thought to share, depicts one of the distillery’s famed images - racked Butts in the distillery’s warehouse. Its presumably fair to say that besides industry figures and a few lucky ones, few people outside of Japan saw the distillery in its natural working state such as the image above (although I’ve been here for a decade, sadly I never got to see it myself).

Fan or no fan of Karuizawa, you can appreciate the dedication of these artisan distillery workers who up until the official closing of the distillery put in a lot of energy to produce what has become a cult whisky - a whisky that we have all witnessed reach astronomical prices. Although I can give an example of such an occasion - i.e. comparing say the 21yo vintage price stated in the ad to that of current auction prices, I won’t, as that’s not what this post is about (this time), however it’s about a lost distillery, obviously not lost in the hearts and minds of aficionados, but lost literally  -  no more production/distillation.

Yes, there are a number of casks still remaining, that is clearly evident with the numerous churn out of releases from Number One Drinks and private bottlings, as well as reports from various sources speculating figures (remaining casks) - but this will one day come to a sudden halt. Evidence suggests that this “halt” may be in the very near future, quite near than some of us may expect. So once the last of these remaining casks see the light of day (emptied/vatted/bottled), memories of Karuizawa (no pun intended) may lay in these kinds of advertisements from a bygone era. The spirit of Asama (again, no pun intended) will live on in many ways than one, I presume, just as old and defunct Scottish distilleries have done so through media.

Whiskies R Us plans to contribute to the memories by introducing these retro Mercian ads as I come across them, simply to share the imagery to perhaps ponder over and keep the spirit alive.


  1. Hi Clint, great idea to post these retro ads, I loved this one! I also like the second tag line: "Only angels and lucky guys can drink this whisky". It really makes one sad to see that this great distillery is now gone for good.

    1. Hi Pierre, I was waiting for someone to pick up on the sub copy. I didn't want to focus too much on the Japanese buzz copy so I left that out but I'm extremely excited you made that aware for other readers - cheers. I guess that saying " only angles and lucky guys can drink this whisky" really does apply given the circumstances of the distillery and remaining stock. I have a few these retro ads up my sleeve that not many will remember, so its going to be great to post about them. Cheers.