Kirin started exporting its FUJI Whiskey three years ago due to growing popularity of Japanese whiskey in Western markets such as the US and Europe.
Speaking to FoodNavigator-Asia recently late last year, Kirin touted its achievement to have reached its 2025 goal of 50% overseas sales for the Fuji brand three years ahead of schedule.
Yusuke Suzuki, Fuji Brand Ambassador from Kirin Brewery Company, Limited, said: “Japanese whiskey exports have been growing in value for 17 consecutive years now, and there’s been a 14-fold increase in the last decade. Whiskey is also selected as one of Japan’s priority export items by the government – supported by public and private sectors in a concerted effort to promote growth. We will focus on overseas export for our FUJI Whisky,” he added.
Kirin currently exports to the US, China, Singapore, France, and Australia, but sees significant scope in EU and US for future growth.
“Our Gotemba distillery and the FUJI brand are still not well-known. Considering that now Japan is one of the world’s leading whiskey markets, we plan to increase awareness of the FUJI brand and the distillery, including promoting Japanese whiskey all over the world.
“To achieve this, at this stage, we do not want to localise the brand [to our export markets], but to present a common image and the original taste around the world and to nurture the brand.”
Aligned with its export ambitions, Kirin is focusing its domestic efforts on social activities around Japanese whiskey education: “It’s the 100th year anniversary for Japanese whiskey. This year, we want to make whiskey-related news more visible to consumers through increased communication efforts. We will convey the appeal of Japanese whiskey in cooperation with the industry as a whole.”
It added that it will embark on “social activities” to protect the water source by working with Gotemba city where its distillery is located; and launch a concept space at its Gotemba premium outlet to create a storytelling experience for its customers.
Early days of Japanese whiskey
This year marks the 50th anniversary its FUJI Gotemba distillery. In its early days, Suzuki revealed that Kirin had combined techniques from matured American, Canadian, and Scotch whiskey and combined its fermentation to develop its current grain and malt whiskey range.
“We have the distillery since 1973, and we haven’t changed our stance from that age to produce whiskey with Japanese craftmanship. We’re using the rich natural environment of Mount Fuji and our facilities that combine the [expertise from] the three places via our joint venture to create a wide variety of base and blend whiskies at the peak of its maturity.”
The joint venture was established with Canadian whiskey distillery Seagram Company Ltd. when Kirin first started its whiskey business.
Coinciding with its anniversary is the upcoming May launch of the Kirin Single Malt Japanese Whiskey FUJI and Kirin Single Malt Japanese Whiskey FUJI 50th anniversary edition.
Kirin Single Malt Japanese Whiskey FUJI will be made available to Japan and its overseas markets, and in 700ml bottles.
“We first launched the single grain products three years ago, and the single blended only last year. We are now launching the single malt. All these products use the snow-melted water from Mount Fuji. “Single” means produced in one distillery. Single malt whiskies are a major category and pretty big in matured markets like Scotland,” Suzuki explained its new single malt product.
The product constituted a mix of malt whiskies aged in a mix of French oak, bourbon, wine and beer barrels, and its taste is defined by “a medley of fruity, luscious, and creamy notes in soft waves.”
As for the Kirin Single Malt Japanese Whiskey FUJI 50th anniversary edition, it is limited to 3,000 bottles and only made available at the FUJI Gotemba Distillery and DRINX online store.
Suzuki also teased that the 50th anniversary edition product combined Kirin’s 1973, 1980, 1998, 2000 and 2010 whiskeys into one. Its taste is defined by “[a combination] of deep aroma characteristic of the precious, long-matured base whisky and the delicate malt flavor, with the new fruity malt flavor in perfect harmony.”