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Japanese whisky ‘absolutely’ needs a GI

A geographical indication (GI) is “absolutely” needed to protect Japanese whisky, Number one Drinks Company co-founder Marcin Miller has said.

Japanese whisky “absolutely” needs a GI status, said Marcin Miller, co-founder of the Number One Drinks Company

Speaking to The Spirits Business in December, Miller, who also co-founded The Kyoto Distillery in Japan, said he would like to see a GI status awarded to Japanese whisky, which continues to grow in popularity.

“The prices commanded by Japanese whisky have led to whisky being bottled as Japanese without a drop distilled in the country,” said Marcin. “It’s extraordinary to hear neophytes extolling the virtues of some Japanese whisky or other when they’d turn their nose up at the same liquid if it was more appropriately packaged as a bottle of Scotch, Irish, American or Canadian whisk(e)y.

“There is no problem with bottles of Japanese whisky containing other whiskies – indeed the practice has a long and illustrious history – but it should be labelled and described as such to prevent consumer embarrassment.”

And he’s not the only one keen to see a Japanese whisky GI – though Stefan Van Eycken, author of Japanese whisky book Whisky Rising, is not confident a GI status will come about any time soon.

“I can’t tell you how many times I have had to tell people who asked me about a particular ‘Japanese whisky’ that they hadn’t seen before that it was maybe legally ‘Japanese’, but not in terms of actual contents and what most people would understand as being ‘Japanese’ – at least distilled and aged in Japan,” said Van Eycken.

“Too many producers have a vested interest in keeping their internal kitchens closed so, yes, I think a GI is desperately needed, but no, I don’t think it will happen any time soon.”

Japanese whisky has grown so popular over recent years that producers have found themselves short of aged stocks. As such, several have had to remove their aged-stated whiskies from the market.

In May last year, Suntory confirmed it would be discontinuing its Hibiki 17 Year Old and Hakushu 12 Year Old Japanese whiskies from this year due to stock shortages.

For an in-depth look at the Japanese whisky category see the January 2019 edition of The Spirits Business magazine, out now.

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