France-based importer La Maison du Whisky's final four bottlings of Karuizawa whisky in official Karuizawa livery are now on sale in Europe. I am afraid I might be a bit late with this news because of my personal crisis (and I am banging this out on my mobile so please excuse mistakes). My understanding is that La Maison du Whisky has had them on its shelves for a number of days now.
Number One Drinks will not be allowed to use the official labels after this shipment, so the four single casks will be the last of their kind from La Maison. (Read this post to understand Number One's role here.) A new label has been developed for future single casks. The Noh label bottlings will continue because they are not official bottlings and The Whisky Exchange may also be putting out their own Karuizawa.
Anyway, feast your eyes:
Alongside the last of the officials, La Maison is also selling a very interesting new Noh offering. It is the first of a series of multi-vintage (1981, 1982, 1983 & 1984) releases planned by Noh. The idea came from Frapin, a small family-owned Cognac producer and one of the very few to release vintage bottlings. As well as a few standard vintage bottlings (which are subject to especially strict laws in France) for LMDW, they have also released three multi-vintages to date as a way of bottling something very close to a standard vintage, but without the paperwork. Now, the Noh series is trying the same idea with whisky.
One final tangential comment, while we are talking Karuizawa: there has been some really interesting discussion on Nonjatta recently about availability in Japan and other issues (see Stefan's fascinating Karuizawa vignette and the comments attached). My understanding is that Number One Drinks, who have bought the remaining Karuizawa stock, are genuinely bound contractually from discussing many of the issues raised, but I have few pennies worth to add to the debate of my own. (Just to be clear, I have no ties to them at all but I have been a long-term admirer of what they have done to promote Japanese whisky abroad.)
I would say this on the general issue of pricing, about which people, quite naturally, feel quite strongly: The work that goes into making these whiskies available outside Europe is very considerable indeed. Quite naturally, people in Japan and other areas have a contrary interest, but I think it is a good thing that Japanese whisky has reached a more global audience and that that is very largely down to the importers rather than the Japanese distillers.
As I say, this is very hard work. You don't just get a shipping container and pack a load of whisky to send back home. We have seen some attempts at that approach in the past and the pitfalls have sometimes been evident. I think it took Number One five years of to get to where it is now with the Karuizawa stock, which, as one insider put it to me, "is just the starting post."
On the availability in Japan issue, my understanding is that the Whisky Live bottlings will include two from Karuizawa this year, and those are very unlikely to be the last in Japan.