As we have just witnessed the new year transition I'd like to take the opportunity to once again thank all the supporters of Whiskies R Us, to wish you all great times ahead, and to reflect upon a memorable year. The year 2013 saw a relatively dramatic change in the Japanese whisky industry with a few unexpected surprises: a smaller domestic distillery thought to have little chance of winning prestigious awards over the big guns did so, and craft distillers set their sights on the American market. The former, Hombo Shuzo, as you know, took "World's Best Blended Malt Whisky" at the World Whisky Awards 2013 (for Mars Maltage 3+25), and the later being Chichibu and White Oak (Eigashima). Akuto-san has began promoting Chichibu in the US with various seminars, while White Oak is also in place to launch (as reported (here) by Chris at The Whisky Wall).
Another notable refashion of the domestic industry, which you have all read about, was the shift towards Japanese whisky without an age statement. First with Suntory replacing their 10yo Yamazaki and Hakushu expressions, followed by Nikka dropping the 12yo Taketsuru and substituting it with the NAS that is arguably much younger. Supply versus demand? Yes, but perhaps following trends? It will be interesting to see this year, in 2014, where the NAS movement takes us all. I've heard people speculate the movement will continue on the domestic market where distilleries will continue the heavy highball drive. Some people have even suggested, or predicted, that Suntory's Yamazaki and Hakushu 12yo's will follow, at least for a short period on home shores, again just a speculation.
Something else worth noting was the flourish of releases we saw last year (as I implied (here) in 2012), most notably the array of private releases from the smaller distilleries for major Japanese retailers, who now appear to have confidence in selecting casks and making private bottles available to their customers.These private releases have proved to be quite popular so it's only natural to presume we will be seeing more this year...well depending on cask availability. As for the big players, first things first, Hakushu Sherry Cask 2014 in Feburary if I'm not mistaken. Once again, expect this year to be full of surprises and exciting news, and I look forward to another year sharing with you all what I can.
Happy New Year...Cheers!