Suntory Time! Maybe not. Apparently, Japanese whisky is now too popular. Demand is exceeding supply. This week, Suntory announced that they will be discontinuing sales of the Hibiki 17-year-old and the Hakushu 12-year-old expressions.
The final allocations of Hakushu-12 will ship in June and the last of the Hibiki-17 will ship in September according to the company. Given that it takes, well, 12 and 17 years respectively to age the whiskies, it could a while before you see those bottles again.
“It will take quite a long time before we can restart sales of the products,” a Suntory spokesperson told Nikkei.
Whiskey has been booming worldwide for about ten years and the aJapanese market is no exception. The nation is a leading consumer of both ultra-premium expressions and base level spirits dispensed through TOKI Highball Machines at izakayas.
Japanese whiskies are also immensely popular abroad. According to the nation’s Finance Ministry, exports of Japanese whisky skyrocketed from about 2 billion yen to nearly 15 billion yen over the past decade.
However, most westerners likely know Hibiki-17 for its role in the 2003 film, Lost In Translation. In the movie, Bill Murray plays an aging American actor hired to promote the brand. “And then there is a bottle of Suntory whisky on top of the table,” the director instructs Murray’s character. “You understand, right? With wholehearted feeling, slowly, look at the camera, tenderly, and as if you are meeting old friends, say the words. As if you are Bogie in Casablanca, saying, ‘Here’s looking at you, kid,’—Suntory time!”
Translation director Sofia Coppola is no stranger to Suntory time. Her father, Francis Ford Coppola appeared in the brand’s ads alongside legendary director Akira Kurosawa. Suntory also marketed endorsements from Sean Connery, Sammy Davis Jr., and Lee Van Cleef (the badass opposite Clint Eastwood in Segio Leone’s westerns) over the years. These spots are too good to ignore; so, we’ve included them below.
Coppola & Kurosawa
Sammy Davis Jr.
Lee Van Cleef
Bill Murray in Lost In Translation