Who is Number One? Karuizawa Whisky Stock Sold!

The second whisky tasting I ever organised was a Japanese night called "Lost in Translation", back in 2007.  

The idea was simple!

I managed a small restaurant in Newcastle upon Tyne, which had a 50 seater Cinema attached, so we decided that a Japanese film (Lost in Translation) and whisky combo would be fitting.  In the lead up to the actual evening I discovered a set of Japanese whiskies sold as Ichiro’s Malt Card Series, being distributed by a drinks company called Number One Drinks.  I ended up buying a bottle of the Ace Of Spades, a thick heavily sherried 1985 Hanyu, bottled at 55% Abv. It left me hooked to most things Japanese!   

Since then Number One has continued to release and distribute amazing Japanese whisky, and has in my opinion really opened the European market to companies like Suntory and Nikka

Then a couple of weeks ago I heard rumours that the gents at Number One might have got their hands on all the remaining stock of Karuizawa whisky. This proved to be true as 10 mins ago the following press release popped up in my mailbox:

LATEST INFORMATION: 11th August 2011


The entire remaining inventory of Mercian’s Karuizawa Distillery has been acquired on behalf of Number One Drinks by an Asian-based company. International importer and distributor of Japanese malt whisky, Number One Drinks Company, has handled worldwide sales of Karuizawa single casks since 2006 and has helped raise the profile of Japanese single malts internationally, especially with the help of distributors in the key markets of Taiwan, France, UK and Sweden.

 Of the 12 Gold Medals awarded by the Malt Maniacs in 2010, four were for whiskies sourced by Number One Drinks (including three Karuizawas) and the Best Japanese Whisky in Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible 2011 was a 1967 single cask from Karuizawa.

 Tokyo-based David Croll, Managing Director (Asia) of Number One Drinks, states: “The sherry-matured, rich and complex single malt of Karuizawa was an undiscovered jewel. We have taken great pleasure in introducing the whisky to enthusiasts throughout the world. This acquisition will give greater flexibility in terms of what we release when and the possibility of launching a private cask scheme.”

 As well as bottling the iconic Vintage Series at Karuizawa Distillery, the acquisition will see Number One Drinks working more closely with Ichiro Akuto as casks will be moved to a new warehouse at Chichibu Distillery. Number One Drinks is planning a global launch of the eagerly-awaited Chichibu three year old in September of this year, with attendance at Whisky Live Taipei, Whisky Live Paris, the Stockholm Beer & Whisky Festival and London’s Whisky Show (The Whisky Exchange).

 Marcin Miller, Managing Director (Europe) of Number One Drinks, observes: “As well as the release of Chichibu ‘The First’ and the on-going bottling of the Vintage Series single casks from Karuizawa, we are looking to release an 11-year-old single malt at 46% from Karuizawa. These are exciting times for fans of Japanese single malt whisky.” 

I'm really excited to try the 11yo and get my hands on a couple of bottles.  However, the biggest question is how much will it be?

I can imagine in the UK it's going to be more than £50 as the rarity of this whisky will only push the price up, although to me it's a price I'd happily pay for a little bit of Japanese distilling history.