From Japan to Poland. Yeah, not a connection often made for most people, let alone whisky drinkers, but it’s an opportunity that I want to share. In future posts I’ll share some secrets about where to find Nikka and Suntory bottles with numbers on them in the US, but today I’m in Poland so that’s where we’ll start. The city of Poznan is one of the larger cities in Poland, a wonderful, slightly gothic city close to the border with Germany. Full disclosure: I lived here for two years while working so I know the city reasonably well but that said, I had never in that time been to either of the stores mentioned below.
There’s been plenty written already about the Japanese TV show Massan so I won’t go into details suffice to say that it has, inadvertently and single-handedly, reshaped the global market for Japanese whisky.
Nikka and Suntory announced they are moving to NAS bottling exclusively. The horror! The horror! I’ve tried Yamazaki and Hakushu with and without numbers and, well, numbers are better. Your mileage may vary of course, but I truly think that something has been lost with the introduction of the vague and ubiquitous ‘Distiller’s Reserve’ releases. Don’t get me wrong here, they are still good whiskies, just not as full of character and uniqueness as the age statement bottles. Which brings me to today’s post: Nikka.
I had never tried any whisky from Nikka until this week. There is a cigar bar here in Poznan that has, in my opinion, the best whisky selection in the city and they have both Yoichi 10 and 15 available. I tasted both and loved both (deliciously paired with an H. Upman Majestic). I had done a little research about the liquor stores here and was planning on buying a Springbank 15 but after trying the Yoichis I thought I would, just to be sure, check the local supply of Japanese whisky because you never know where a gem of a deal might be hiding.
While the Whisky Shop linked above only had the Yoichi NAS (but did have Hakushu 12 as well as numbered Taketsuru and Hibiki) there was another major whisky shop in town that did have Yoichi with an age statement. The website is in Polish but the numbers don’t lie for Yoichi 10, 12 and 15. Sure, 850zl/~$300 CAD for the Yamazaki 12 year is completely out of hand, but for the Yoichi? Look at the prices. I felt the forager’s rush, like discovering something that no one else appreciated for the value that was right there. Right in front of me.
Hiding in plain sight.
Of course Canadian duty free protocols and the patriotic imperative to import no more than 1.14 litres of liquor into the country prevented me from buying any more than a single bottle so I chose the Yoichi 10. It, to me, after trying both the 10 and the 15, seemed like an exceptional price/quality ratio. So the lesson of the day here is: shop for whisky where the demand is uncertain. The prices here in Poznan clearly reflect the global situation for Suntory products, but, oddly, not for Nikka products.
Edit: Wow. A mere 48 hours after I bought that bottle for 359 zloty, the store has bumped their price to 449 zloty, about $30 CAD more than I paid on Saturday. It’s still not an awful price for Yoichi but, damn, finding deals and sharing them with other collectors is going to be tougher than I thought!