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Kirin Mounts A U.S. Push For Fuji Japanese Whisky

December 28, 2022

As Japanese whisky has overtaken saké as Japan’s biggest alcohol export in the last two years, Kirin is looking to expand the global footprint of its Fuji whisky label. Named after one of Japan’s most iconic landmarks, the brand’s namesake distillery is situated just miles from the peak of Mt. Fuji itself. Up until early 2021, the brand was only available in Japan, but Kirin decided to leverage the international market, forming a plan to achieve 50% overseas sales with Fuji by 2025, driven by a concerted focus on the U.S.

Fuji was first introduced stateside in September of last year with the release of its Single Grain Japanese Whiskey ($95 a 700-ml.). “Sales volume for Single Grain has grown significantly, both in Japan and overseas, more than tripling in Japan, and by 20 times overseas,” says Yusuke Suzuki, Fuji brand ambassador in Kirin’s business development department. “The Japanese whisky boom is on fire overseas, especially in America and France. They are the biggest markets for us for Fuji. In fact, we think the U.S. is the most important country for us.” He notes that Kirin planned to end 2022 with Fuji in 18 states, but that as of November they were already selling across 21 states.

Fuji is imported by Kirin-owned Distinguished Vineyards & Wine Partners, whose portfolio also includes Argyle Winery in Oregon’s Willamette Valley, MacRostie Winery and Vineyards in Sonoma County, Markham Vineyards and Textbook in Napa Valley, as well as Wither Hills in New Zealand.

Along with Fuji Single Grain, the other two expressions currently available in the U.S. include the eponymous Fuji Whisky ($60 a 700-ml.) and the ultra-premium 30-Year-Old Single Grain Whisky Fuji ($3,000 a 700-ml.), which debuted in the U.S. last month. A fourth expression, Fuji Japanese Whisky (known in Japan as Single Blended Japanese Whisky Fuji), will be introduced in the U.S. in February or March 2023.

Suzuki points to the connoisseurship of U.S. whisky consumers as one of the key factors driving their decision to expand into the U.S., which became clear to the company during tasting events last year. “We know that Americans know a lot about Japanese whisky, maybe more than Japanese people, so this is a big chance for us,” he says of the international pivot for the brand.

Fuji also entered France last year and earlier this year expanded into Australia, China, and Singapore. According to the company, export value of the Fuji brand will exceed domestic sales by the end of 2022—beating its original timetable by three years—with plans to further accelerate strong overseas exports in 2023.—Mary E. Keefe

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