Suntory to Raise Prices of Five Brands, Including Hibiki, Yamazaki, and Hakushu, from April 1, 2024. Background, market price, and future impact

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SuntoryYamazaki DistilleryHakushu DistilleryChita Distillery

Suntory announced in a news release today, November 21, 2023, a price revision for certain domestic premium whiskey products. The price of 19 products from five brands, including Hibiki, Yamazaki, and Hakushu, will increase on April 1, 2024.
The company also announced price revisions for imported whiskies from overseas as well. Popular brands such as “Macallan,” “Bowmore,” “Ballantine,” and “Maker’s Mark” are all subject to price increases.

We have considered the details of the price increases, the background (reasons), market price trends, and the future impact.

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1. Major Price Revisions for Domestic Premium Whiskies

Suntory’s release titled “Price Revisions for Certain Domestic Premium Whisky Products” announced that the five brands Suntory positions as ” domestic premium whisky ” are Hibiki, Yamazaki, Hakushu, Chita, and Heki Ao. The price revision is particularly aimed at long-term, mature whiskies. The price revision is expected to result in a significant price increase, especially for long-aged whiskies.

1-1. Main details of the price revision

Main price revision items (700ml bottles)

Product name Current price (tax not included) New price (tax not included)
Hibiki 30 years old 160,000 yen 360,000 yen
Hibiki JAPANESE HARMONY 5,500 yen 7,500 yen
Yamazaki 25years old 160,000 yen 360,000 yen
Yamazaki 12years 10,000 yen 15,000 yen
Yamazaki 4,500 yen 7,000 yen
Hakushu 25years 160,000 yen 360,000 yen
Hakushu 12years 10,000 yen 15,000 yen
Hakushu 4,500 yen 7,000 yen
Chita 4,000 yen 6,000 yen
Ao 5,000 yen 6,000 yen

1-2. Price revision implementation date

The new price revision will be effective for shipments on April 1, 2024.

1-3. Reason for price increase

In the press release, Suntory explains the price increase for domestic premium whiskey as follows

Suntory has been making various corporate efforts to strengthen its production facilities, including the addition of distillation kettles and storage facilities, as well as renovating the Yamazaki and Hakushu distilleries to make them more attractive manufacturing facilities.
 In addition to the efforts to date, we will be revising our prices in order to further improve our brand value by enhancing the quality of our products, strengthening our production facilities, and making our products more environmentally friendly.

 We will continue to take on the challenge of “pursuing delicious quality” and “evolving the customer experience” and aim to produce the world’s best whiskey.

(Reference: Price revision for some domestic premium whiskey products )

Indeed, this year, Suntory celebrated the 100th anniversary of its whisky production and announced that it would invest 100 million yen to strengthen the facilities of its Yamazaki and Hakushu distilleries.

Furthermore, “Hibiki,” “Yamazaki,” and “Hakushu” are highly acclaimed around the world, and demand for them is soaring not only in Japan but around the world. However, production volume has not kept pace with supply, and it goes without saying that large-scale capital investment must be made to meet demand.

"Yamazaki Aged 25 Years" and "Hi...
Suntory's "Yamazaki Aged 25 Years" won the "Supreme Champion Spirit" award, the highest award in all categories, for the first time at the "ISC", a world-class liquor competition. Many other Japanese whiskies won awards. A list of Gold and above award-winning products are introduced here.

2. Major Price Revisions for Overseas Whiskies

In addition to domestically produced premium whisky, price increases for imported whisky from overseas were announced on the same day.
Major brands imported by Suntory include Macallan, Bowmore, Ballantine, and Maker’s Mark.

2-1. Main details of the price revision

Main items subject to price revision (700ml bottles)

Product name Current price (excluding tax) New price (excluding tax)
The Macallan 30 years old 351,360 yen 550,000 yen
The Macallan 12years 9,990 yen 12,500 yen
Bowmore 12years old 5,060 yen 6,600 yen
Ballantine Finest (1L) 2,310 yen 2,400 yen
Maker’s Mark 3,080 yen 3,400 yen

1-2. Price revision implementation date

The new price revision will be effective for shipments on April 1, 2024.

1-3. Reason for price increase

In the press release, Suntory explained the price increase of imported whiskey from overseas as follows

In order to provide a stable supply of high quality products, Suntory has been making various corporate efforts such as improving productivity, streamlining logistics, and reducing various costs.
 However, it has become extremely difficult to absorb the impact of cost increases in raw materials such as grain ingredients, materials, transportation costs, and FOB prices* through corporate efforts alone, and we have no choice but to implement price revisions for some products.
(*An abbreviation for “Free On Board”. (* “Free On Board”: price of the local product plus freight to the port of discharge)

(Reference: Price revision of some products such as whiskey, liqueur, and wine )

Certainly, cost increases due to price hikes for raw materials such as barley, bottles, caps, labels, and transportation costs have been cited by whisky distilleries in Japan as a major reason for price revisions, and Suntory’s explanation above can be seen as an inevitable one.

In addition, with the recent global whisky boom and the high prices of premium whiskies in particular, the de facto value of vintage whiskies such as “Macallan 30Year Old” has skyrocketed, so it is quite natural for manufacturers to adjust their prices to the market price. It is a very natural trend for manufacturers to adjust their products to the market price.

Market Price Trends

I would like to touch on the current trend of Suntory’s domestic premium whiskies.

3-1. Internet sales

On major online retailers such as Rakuten Ichiba and Amazon, it is difficult to purchase Hibiki, Yamazaki, and Hakushu at regular prices, and the prices are even higher than the new prices after the revision.

3-2. retail sales at mass merchandisers and convenience stores

The supply is almost never stable at major mass merchandisers such as Aeon and Costco, convenience stores such as 7-Eleven, and liquor stores (liquor stores), which are the main retailers. Some are sold at a fixed price, while others are sold at a premium price.

3-3. Sales to commercial stores (restaurants), etc.

Sales from commercial wholesalers to BARs, restaurants, and izakayas (Japanese-style pubs) also continue to be difficult, and it appears that only one or two bottles per month can be purchased….

Impact of the April Price Revision

Now, let us consider the impact of the April price revision on our daily lives.

4-1. Buying up to April

Even now, Hibiki, Yamazaki, and Hakushu are all in demand, and are sold out as soon as they appear on store shelves, making it difficult for whisky lovers to purchase them before the April price revision.

4-2. Curbing resale and pre-pricing

Whisky is already being sold on the Internet at prices higher than the revised price.
There is a possibility that this revision will slightly lower the purchasing power of the market. In that case, the profit obtained from “resale” and “pre-priced sales” will decrease, which may lead to suppression.

However, if the price revision leads to more premiums, the “resale price” and “pre-sale price” will rise further, and there is a great possibility that this will not lead to a curb on the market.

Suntory whiskey is in high demand from foreign tourists, so even if Japanese people stop buying it, foreigners will be happy to buy it, so this area is difficult to predict.

4-3. Price revision at BARs and restaurants

The price revision at BAR Shinkai, which is operated by our media company, will also be greatly affected by this price revision. If the price of Yamazaki NV is raised by 2,500 yen, from 4,500 yen to 7,000 yen, it will be difficult to earn a fair profit at the current serving price, and we will have no choice but to revise the price in the restaurant as of April 1, 2012.

Information about "BAR Shinkai"
Japanese Whisky Dictionary operates three BAR Shingai stores in Minato Ward, Tokyo. In addition to the Japanese whiskeys introduced on this site, they also handle domestic gin and beer. Original cocktails and fresh fruit cocktails are also popular. There is also a wide variety of food available for the first time.

We expect that other BARs and restaurants will probably raise the price of Suntory whiskey all together from April 1 as well.
In particular, the prices of 12-year and 18-year vintages will be considerably higher, so why not enjoy “Hibiki,” “Yamazaki,” and “Hakushu” at BARs and restaurants while you can?

4-4. Other makers follow suit

Suntory’s bold price revision is expected to have a significant impact on other manufacturers in the future.
Probably, each whiskey maker is suffering from the same “investment cost” and “raw material cost increase” as Suntory. As Suntory, a major whisky maker, has raised its prices, we will raise ours as well. In other words, the situation will become easier for each company to raise prices.

Summary

Whiskey prices have never been lowered since at least 14 years ago when I entered the restaurant industry, but rather have been raised repeatedly. The same is true for Scotch and Bourbon whiskey.

The world is discovering how good whiskey tastes, and whiskey is being consumed in more and more countries. Its demand is expected to continue to rise. Whether it is Scottish or American whisky, there is not a sufficient supply to meet the worldwide demand.
This supply-demand balance has caused the price of whiskey to rise.

Japanese whiskey is still in short supply, and its rarity will never diminish. In the future, if the export volume is increased to meet the demand from all over the world, the rarity will further increase.
When will the time come when the price of whiskey will “drop” or “settle down”?

この記事を書いた人
Ryuhei Oishi

Bartender at bar Shinkai Toranomon, born in Hokkaido.
After working at a restaurant in Tokyo, became a certified sommelier by the Japan Sommelier Association.
I became interested in Japanese whiskey, of which he had little knowledge, and started working at bar Shinkai. I went to distilleries to talk to the distillers and joined JWD to share their passion and information as a bartender.

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