In 1923, Yamazaki, Japan's first malt whisky distillery was opened by Shinjiro Torii in Shimamoto, near Osaka. Nearly 100 years later and Yamazaki has become the poster boy for the growing Japanese whisky industry. Bottlings are hard to get hold of and production is struggling to keep up with demand. But, it wasn't always that way - from the 1980's well into the start of the 21st Century, Japanese whisky was both unpopular at home and also largely unheard outside of the country.
Blame the man in the hat. Blame a string of industry awards. Blame the Internet. Or frankly, perhaps we should just all blame ourselves. Whisky has become a commodity, and perhaps none more so than Japanese whisky. The Karuizawa's and Hanyu's of this world have become statement pieces and status symbols - many bottles little more than liquid filled paperweights. But, the impact of the rise of Japanese whisky and of commodification can be felt across the market with nearly all bottlings becoming Veblen goods.