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Confessions of a retailer: Dekanta

Makiyo Masa, Dekanta founder and director, shares her vision for developing the definitive site for Japanese whisky.

Makiyo Masa, founder and director of Dekanta

Our ambition is to be the most comprehensive site for Japanese whisky anywhere and, because of that, we spend a lot of time trying to secure obscure bottles that others cannot offer. Of course we also stock and place a lot of emphasis on regular bottles such as Suntory’s Hibiki and Yamazaki, and Nikka’s Yoichi, but our aim is still to be able to offer those bottles you cannot find elsewhere. I want Dekanta to be the place you go to when you know there is that special bottle that you will not find elsewhere.

Earlier this year we managed to secure two bottles of Ichiro’s Malt Ace of Clubs. There are only a few bottles in existence so I am quite proud of the fact we managed to get two of them – one was sold within an hour. We also added a Glover 22-year-old, which is a blend of Japanese whisky from the Hanyu distillery and Scotch from Longmorn and Glen Garioch, which tells me Scottish distillers are taking interest in Japanese whisky. I am extremely excited about this bottle!

We Japanese are obsessed with doing our best, and I think our history reflects that. Once I heard a professor at the University of Tokyo joke that the Japanese liked Mission: Impossible because they wanted to be the best at everything they did. With whisky the Japanese wanted to be as good as – or even better than – Scotch, and I think customers and whisky lovers all over the world cannot deny that Japanese whisky makers have done well.

Japanese whiskies from Suntory and Nikka have won international awards again and again. And of course, being Japanese, I am proud of that. I think Japanese whisky is really world-class.

I think spirits buying has always has been in my family. We have been involved in the business in one way or another for decades. It’s an incredibly rewarding business. I have learned that in this business, much like any other, you must have the zeal to learn everything there is about spirits and constantly keep yourself updated on trends.

What sets us apart is our goal is to be the definitive online site for Japanese whisky; the site where you can count on not just finding your average bottle of Japanese whisky that everybody stocks but everything you can imagine and cannot imagine related to the category.

We have had a lot of very rare bottles that collectors love and we spend much time trying to secure such bottles. We also try our best to respond to people’s requests, so if we don’t actually have the bottle they want in stock, we have enough connections to be able to get it most of the time. I think people have come to appreciate this, and now we have a lot of regular customers like restaurants and Japanese specialists because they know they can count on us.

Finding that special bottle that some collectors and specialists are looking for is one of the toughest parts of my job. We get requests for all sorts of bottles that most people have never even heard of, so they can be difficult to find, but at the same time it’s very rewarding when we do. We have a really dedicated team working on this. It’s challenging but great fun at the same time.

There are a lot of exciting developments happening in Japanese whisky. Demand overseas has grown every year for the past six years or so. Also, in Japan it’s so popular that there are stock shortages. I think Yamazaki, Hibiki and Yoichi will grow even more popular in 2016. Kenten Co is also setting up its very own distillery in Hokkaido, and we have also been introducing Mars Whisky – the third-largest distillery in Japan – and people are gradually starting to appreciate it. I think that it will probably become more popular this year. Finally, we are launching our very own Dekanta mineral water later this year. It’s a Japanese water. As many whiskies – Hibiki for example – were made with the intention of being blended with water, we feel it’s only right that we give our customers the same kind of water the blenders experimented with.

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