In comparison to large retailers and department stores in Osaka, Tokyo seems to be the place to pick-up something of uniqueness. On a recent roam around the major spots of the area - Shibuya, Shinjuku, and Ikebukuro, I found an abundance of limited Japanese whiskies that are either very hard to find in Kansai or outright not available. Visitors to Japan who have an affectionate interest in Japanese whisky may overlook certain retailers, perhaps with an assumption that limited releases would not be sold in such establishments - however it is always the least expected places you will find something.
First port of call was the SEIBU department store in Shibuya. SEIBU is the equivalent of say Daimaru and is only seen in the Kanto region. Here to my surprise, in the extremely small liquor section, was a store limited release of a Chichibu that was distilled in 2009 and bottled in 2012 from cask#1397 (1st Cask: Bourbon Barrel - 2nd Cask: Port Pipe). This 3yo with an ABV of 61% was introduced last year by SEIBU, and there are literally only a few bottles left as of writing.
A minute down the road from Shibuya SEIBU is the iTOKYU department store, equally just as big as any other major department store with a very interesting selection also. Besides the Yamazaki and Hakushu 25yo (in plenty) and a few Owners Casks the highlight of the department store was Akuto Ichiro’s 20yo Malt & Grain. This store release is very similar to that of the other 20yo Malt & Grain for Isetan but sporting a different label (as seen in the picture). For a 20yo old that contains artisan whisky from both the Hanyu and Kawazaki distillery the asking price of 10,500 yen is a small price to pay. There are not many of these left at iTOKYU however; there is an abundance of Chichibu’s Port Pipe/Chibidaru/and The Peated expressions.
From here I headed to Ikebukuro, mainly as that was where I was staying and wanted to freshen up. First things first, Ikebukuro’s Bic Camera was my priority before a shower and a change. Just like the Namba Bic Camera, single cask vintage Hanyu’s can/could be found here. What I liked about here is there is a whole separate retail store distant from the electronics store purely selling alcohol. These vintage Hanyu’s are not cheap, but why would they be, for those with a taste for Hanyu you may be lucky enough to secure a bottle still. The Ikebukuro SEIBU unfortunately didn’t have anything to write home about except for yet again a half dozen or so of Chichibu’s Port Pipe.
Once refreshed and energetic I made my way to Shinjuku. No introduction is really needed here - both the Isetan and Takashimaya are in the neighborhood. The former stocking things we are all now fairly familiar with (Karuizawa Brilliant Sherry 12yo and Ichiros "Houou-uhi" blend), while the later was quite similar to that of iTOKYU (Hakshu and Yamazaki 25yo and another abundance of Chichibu’s Port Pipe/Chibidaru). To conclude I would say that Tokyo is a Mecca for store releases and surprisingly good for availability with distillery bottles - prime example the Chichibu Chibidaru official bottling is almost not seen any more in Kansai (Osaka), different story in Kanto, at any given shop I found a handful. There seems to be a bigger presence/portion of Chichibu in the area - I like it. And by the way don’t forget to check every single supermarket you come across, I was rewarded with the find of a sherry Yamazaki Owners Cask of all things. Happy shopping everyone!