Kirin kicks off export of Japanese whisky to US

Kirin’s Fuji whisky comes from a distillery at the base of Mt. Fuji. (Photo courtesy of Kirin)

JUNYA HEMMI, Nikkei staff writer | Japan

TOKYO — Kirin Brewery will begin exporting Japanese-made whisky to the U.S. next month, tapping one of the biggest markets for luxury spirits.

Kirin looks to make its Fuji Single Grain Japanese Whiskey available at liquor stores in 12 states as well as sell to high-end restaurants, aiming for 900 locations this year. Set to sell for $95 a bottle, Kirin plans to market it with a wineglass in line with the promotion used in Japan.

The subsidiary of Japan’s Kirin Holdings makes Fuji whisky at its distillery in Gotemba, at the base of Mount Fuji.

Whisky led Japan’s exports of alcoholic beverages last year, beating out sake for the first time in two decades, at 27.1 billion yen ($245 million). Global demand is likely to keep growing as the reputation of Japanese whisky improves.

Kirin sold 1,630 cases of Fuji whisky in 2020, and began exports to France last October. It aims to sell 4,000 cases in Japan, 740 in the U.S. and 460 in France this year.

The U.S. is a leading market for premium whisky, accounting for 35% of worldwide sales. But it consumes just 3% of Japanese whisky, and Kirin sees room for growth.

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