Why has the retail value of this bottle increased by 650% in 3 years?
Let’s start with who makes the wonderful Hibiki 12 Year Old. Hibiki is a blend made from the Japanese giant Suntory. Suntory are not just a Japanese Whisky company. They are one of the largest food and drink producers in the world. Included in their portfolio and under their ownership (some of these may surprise you) are Lucozade, Ribena, Orangina, Courvoisier, Bowmore, Laphroaig, Jim Beam, and Makers Mark. OK you get the picture – they are huge!
Hibiki means ‘harmony’ in Japanese. The beautiful 24 faces of the bottle symbolise the ancient tradition of “Sekki” – the age-old Japanese calendar. It has been followed for centuries and represents the 24 Japanese seasons.
Why is it so valuable/rare?
In 2014, Hibiki 12 won a double gold award at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition catapulting it into the spotlight. In 2015 a Japanese Whisky distilled by Suntory won best whisky in the world for the first time. Overnight, it transformed the global demand for Japanese Whisky and namely anything with a Suntory label on it. The stocks which Suntory laid down 12 years ago to mature and produce Hibiki 12 didn’t have the knowledge of how popular the whisky was going to become. They didn’t predict an almighty boom so they were severely underprepared for the unprecedented demand which followed.
In 2015, with global demand nearing breaking point, Suntory announced they would be discontinuing this bottle and replacing it with a NAS (non age statement), the Hibiki Harmony. Hibiki 12 is a blend with Yamazaki, Hakushu and Chita, and they simply didn’t have enough aged whisky in their stockholding to keep producing a 12 Year Old Hibiki. Don’t get me wrong, the Hibiki Harmony is a decent dram but it isn’t a patch on its predecessor and lacks any depth in taste due to its tender youth. Although Suntory will never admit it, we reckon it’s a 7 to 9-year-old whisky in the Harmony as opposed to a 12-year-old.
It’s difficult to believe that in February 2015 you could have wandered into a Waitrose or Tesco in the UK for your weekly shop and picked up a bottle of Hibiki 12 off the shelf for only £39. Yes £39! Not forgetting many people in the whisky world were cursing the fact that you only got a reduced 50cl bottle for £39. The reason Tesco and Waitrose ended up with so many bottles was because it was imported from Japan into Suntory’s European distribution centre, Morrison’s Bowmore here in Glasgow. From there it was allocated throughout the U.K. and Europe. Luckily for us.
Now we all know that Amazon didn’t get so big powerful and successful by selling overpriced products. Their current cheapest price (March 2018) is £249 + shipping. Another quick Amazon search for Hibiki 12 you will find one retailing for £599 + delivery! Yes £599 on Amazon. It was only 7 months ago Amazon were retailing this bottle for £160. This bottle is currently trending as an appreciating asset with the remaining supply far outstripped by worldwide demand.
To conclude, this is a whisky very much for the drinker, collector and definitely the investor.