LIQUOR MUSEUM: PB connects consumers and makers to boost Japanese whiskey. -Part 2


LIQUOR MUSEUM: PB connects consumers and makers to boost Japanese whiskey. -Part 2

#Pick up

Nagata Takashi/長田隆志 by「Liquor Museum」

In the second part of this article, we will introduce the private brand by Japan's first "bar franchise", LIQUOR MUSEUM. Why private brands now? We will explore the background!

writer:Ryoko Kuraishi

A visit to the Eigashima distillery. (Photo by Kuririn)

The first private brand (PB) whiskey was released by LIQUOR MUSEUM in 2022.

All of the products were made in collaboration with whisky distilleries in Japan, and currently (April 2024), three distilleries and a total of five types of PB whisky have been released and are available only at LIQUOR MUSEUM .

There are more than 100 distilleries in Japan, producing whiskies that are rich in individuality.

Among them, craft whiskey, which is the product of small and medium-sized distillers' persistence, is a true mass of individuality.

We wanted to make such whiskies known to as many people as possible and make them easier to enjoy.

Also, as a bar that handles a lot of Japanese whiskey, we wanted to get to know the various makers and develop a deep relationship with them," says Takashi Nagata, General Manager of LIQUOR MUSEUM Business Division.

This is how the PB project started. For the selection of distilleries and their original whiskies, blending, and tasting, we asked for the cooperation of Kuririn, a whisky blogger who is a regular visitor to LIQUOR MUSEUM and has experience in selecting and blending whiskies from many makers and distilleries.

Eigashima Distillery, which Kuririn-san calls "Beech Haven in Setouchi," is a hot distillery that has been gaining recognition in recent years. One of the best parts of PB is the opportunity to interact with the distillers.

Increase the number of touch points with PBs.

LIQUOR MUSEUM has a wide range of customers, from long-time whiskey connoisseurs to light users who are just getting to know whiskey.

If the unique releases that can only be consumed here are offered at all of LIQUOR MUSEUM, it will be an opportunity for people to learn about the whisky and the whisky makers who are particular about their whisky.

We thought that this would be a "connecting mechanism" that would lead to a further boost in the whisky scene.

There are many customers who only know about famous brands such as Yamazaki and Hibiki.

That is why we thought it would be worthwhile to promote the appeal of Japanese craft whiskey at our store.

In April 2022, the first PB products to be released in collaboration with Nagahama Distillery in Shiga Prefecture will be blended whiskeys "HAKKOKU" and "SHOZUI".

Both are made from malt whiskey distilled and matured at the distillery and Scotch grain and Scotch malt imported by the company.

Due to the difference in blend ratio, HATTORI has a powerful smokiness and deep sweetness derived from the sherry casks, while SHOZUI has a light fruity and malty flavor.

The depth of the blends, which differ greatly despite the use of common base liquors, is also a characteristic of this PB.

Sake Museum" PB Vol.1 and Vol.2 are all here. From left to right: "Hakkoku", "Shozui", “Kogetsu”, and "Hime-Usagi".

Then, in September 2011, the second PB products, "Kogetsu" and "Hime-Usagi" were released in collaboration with Eigashima Shuzo (Eigashima Distillery) in Hyogo Prefecture.

Kogetsu is a single cask Japanese whisky, meaning that it is a single malt whiskey aged for five years in Oloroso sherry casks, and is characterized by a strong malt flavor with a bitter chocolate-like sweetness and bitterness derived from the sherry casks.

On the other hand, Hime-Usagi, a blended whiskey, is a world blended whiskey blended with Scottish malt and grain whiskey produced at the Eigashima distillery, using Hime-U as the key malt, and has a more approachable flavor.

Mr. Nagata said, "At first, we planned to make only blended whisky, but after tasting the candidate key malts, we received a request to release a single malt as well, so we decided to select a single malt from the list of candidate whiskies and explore the blend ratio.

As a result, we are now able to enjoy both the key malt and the blended version. This release is interesting as a drinking comparison, and has an appeal that only PB can offer.

The rich flavor of the sherry casks and the distillery's individuality make for an interesting finish, and as with the first release, it has been highly praised by core whiskey fans" (Mr. Nagata).

A view of the "Ryu-ryu" blend at the SAKURAO distillery; about 10 patterns were prototyped and narrowed down to three of them, and the recipe was decided after a vote at the LIQUOR MUSEUM manager's meeting.

The newest PB is blended with 100% original spirit from a single distillery.

The latest third product is "Ryu-ryu" , created in collaboration with SAKURAO distillery in Hiroshima Prefecture.

The new PB is a blend of non-peated malt and peated malt sake distilled at the distillery and aged at the Sakurao Matured Warehouse along the Seto Inland Sea and the Togouchi Matured Warehouse in the mountains, as well as grain sake made at the SAKURAO distillery's own facilities.

A blended whiskey consisting of only the original whiskey made at a single distillery is rare in the world.

SAKURAO distillery had released a blended whiskey "Togouchi" made from its own distilled and imported original whiskey since 2008, but it is still fresh in our minds that the distillery has undergone a major renewal in 2023, revising the composition of the original whiskey to one made entirely from its own distilled and aged products.

This renewal was a major step forward in the Japanese whiskey industry, as blended whiskey from small and medium-sized whiskey distilleries generally uses imported whiskey due to the difficulty of procuring domestically produced grain whiskey.

For this PB, we wanted to release a blended Japanese whiskey that meets the definition of Japanese whiskey set for 2021," says Kuririn.

The blend was created using only bourbon and oak casks instead of sherry casks, in response to a request from LIQUOR MUSEUM to create a whisky that could be drunk neat with a highball and still have the character of the distillery.

We are proud to have created a blend that allows you to fully enjoy the unique character of the SAKURAO distillery," says Kuririn.

This is the third PB "Ryu-ryu".

To raise the Japanese whiskey scene.

LIQUOR MUSEUM plans to continue such PB in the future.

However, it is believed that Japanese whiskey will enter an era of elimination in the near future. In such an environment, good products may not always be valued fairly.

That is why I hope that good whisky will be highly valued. I myself am a connoisseur.

There is the creator's persistence and ingenuity, and efforts to improve quality. ...... I don't think anyone is trying to make a bad product, but the particulars are different. And they will not be appreciated if the products and information do not reach the users.

Through this kind of PB, we would like to continue to help the small-scale producers, whose approach and style are different from those of the big companies, to communicate their appeal," says Kuririn.

Meanwhile, Mr. Nagata hopes to use the company's PB as a guidepost to help ordinary consumers understand the appeal of whiskey.

I mentioned earlier that there are 100 whiskey distilleries in Japan, but with such a large number, many people may not know what to choose.

In such cases, we hope that PB, which allows you to easily compare Japanese whiskeys with various characteristics, will help you find your own taste.

We hope that PB will help people become familiar with the taste of whiskey, and that the story of its makers will be communicated to customers from the "Sake Museum".

With this approach, we hope to contribute to broadening the base of bar culture," says Mr. Nagata.

The Japanese whiskey scene is expected to see an increasing variety of whiskeys in the future.

In this context, how will the LIQUOR MUSEUM PB weave a connection? Please keep an eye out for the fourth and subsequent releases!


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