A draft label for the exported Akashi Blend. It says in Japanese that it contains only malt and grain whisky.
Update 28.7.2011: Les Whiskies du Monde have responded to some of the questions raised in this post and I have posted that response at the bottom of the text.
Les Whiskies du Monde have just sent a reply to the questions raised on Nonjatta about the legality in Europe of their Akashi blended whisky (1,2).
Basically, they say that the whisky is made entirely of malt and grain whisky and is perfectly in line with European regulations. They have a signed statement from Mikio Hiraishi, president of Eigashima Shuzo, which makes the whisky, to back them up. This is interesting because it appears, at least at first sight, to be contradicting a very clear email I got from Hiraishi san himself last month talking specifically about the content of the exported whisky, but I will return to that at the end of the post. First, the statements:
The statement from Hiraishi-san was forwarded to me by Les Whiskies du Monde (who say in their own statement below that henceforward all queries about Akashi range whiskies will be dealt exclusively by them because Eigashima Shuzo are "not wishing to communicate on this subject anymore.") Hiraishi-san's statement is very brief, saying only that the Akashi Blend exported with Les Whiskies du Monde contains only malt and grain whisky:
With the agreement of Les Whiskies du Monde which is our exclusive distributor in Europe and in concordance with the European regulations, our whisky Akashi Blended exported for Les Whiskies du Monde is made with malt and grain whiskies.I was also sent a statement from Les Whiskies du Monde, which repeats that the whisky is in conformity with EU regulations and talks about "rumours" circulating on the internet (I will address that question below the statement because it directly concerns Nonjatta and its coverage (1,2)). But first the statement:
To whom it may concern,
With this statement, our Company Les Whiskies du Monde wishes to specify the followingAs I said at the top of this post, the latest statement from Hiraishi-san at least initially appears to be a flat-out contradition of a very specific email I received last month from Hiraishi-san about the whisky he provided to Les Whiskies du Monde. I too had heard "rumours" about the content of the whisky long before posting, but did not post until I got a specific statement from the supplier himself about the content of the whisky. It did not talk generally about Akashi blended whisky. It talked specifically about the whisky provided to Les Whiskies du Monde. I had put the issue of the content of the Akashi blend to Les Whiskies du Monde more than a week before the posting of the initial piece about the content of that whisky, and since then have received several requests to wait for replies. (This has gone on for more than a month). This is their first substantive answer. The statement's implication that the Nonjatta coverage was based on "rumours" is simply wrong (and just a tad irritating). It was also not based on Nick Sikorski's statements. To repeat myself, my post was based on specific information from their supplier himself and my initial post made that crystal clear. It explicitly named Hiraishi-san as the source. It was not an "internet rumour" and it is a bit of a stretch for Les Whiskies to say they heard about it "several days ago." They have known about it for weeks.
For several months, our company Les Whiskies du Monde has been working in a close partnership with the company Eigashima Shuzo located in Japan.
Our company distributes on an exclusive basis in Europe the various Akashi Single Malt whiskies and the Akashi Blended whisky produced by Eigashima Shuzo which have been precedently imported by different channels.
As certified in the enclosed mail emanating directly from the Managing Director of Eigashima Shuzo, Mr Mikio Hiraishi himself, the blended whisky contains malt whisky and grain whisky only.
In order to be in conformity with European Regulations, we have demanded that the Akashi Blended whisky imported in Europe by our company be made with malt whisky and grain whisky as mentioned on the product label (please see document enclosed). The Akashi Blended Whisky containing spirit is meant for Japanese Domestic market only.
We have been made aware several days ago that rumours are circulating on the Internet website "Nonjatta", quoting Mr Nick Sikorski of La Maison du Whisky (92 Clichy).
Those rumours question the quality of the Akashi Blended whisky and bring prejudice to the image and the credibility of our company. We hope that the clarification given in this statement will be sufficient to end the rumours. From now on, to avoid any confusion, any query regarding the whiskies from the Akashi range will have to be directly addressed to ourselves, the company Eigashima Shuzo not wishing to communicate on this subject anymore.
Mr Alain Pontoizeau
I did quote Sikorski in a subsequent piece because I thought La Maison du Whisky, as a major player in the Japanese whisky market in Europe, did have the right to be heard on this issue. But I held back that post and gave a detailed description of Sikorski's comments to Les Whiskies du Monde in the hope of putting the comments from La Maison in the context of Les Whiskies du Monde's view of the matter. I was told initially that I could expect a comment but, after a couple of days, I was informed that I should go ahead and publish and they would reply later. I have also, incidentally, deleted comments by myself and by one other commenter in response to a Les Whiskies comment on my initial post because I was keen to give them a clear run at explaining themselves. I felt, after talking to Les Whiskies, that my view of my interactions with them should probably wait for a later date (because my worries about the way Nonjatta's coverage was being made to seem biased were sort of beside the point for most readers) and I felt the heated comment from the other commenter was only going to raise the temperature. I got permission from the commenter before deleting.)
But, anyway, back to the substantive issue here. Why the apparent contradiction between the two statements from the supplier? I have sent the following questions to Les Whiskies du Monde, just so that everybody gets the full picture:
1. Was the whisky initially supplied by Eigashima in line with this statement (ie. all grain/malt blend) or are you now importing something with different contents from that initially supplied by Eigashima?Update 28.7.2011: Les Whiskies du Monde have responded to my questions. I will give their email in full and let readers judge whether they answer the questions asked or if Nonjatta's coverage is being unfair. (Despite a rising feeling that Les Whiskies du Monde PR operation is really not working for them, I am really trying be even handed but perhaps readers have different opinions. Please give your feedback in the comments.) Arnaud says:
2. If this was the case all along, why did you not just talk to me and give me this information a month ago?
3. Where is the grain whisky and malt whisky in this import from? Is it all from Japan?
Once more you don't give me a proper chance to reply.Les Whiskies du Monde appear to be stating that Eigashima did not provide anything other than grain and malt only blends to Les Whiskies du Monde. Which really leaves open the question of why on earth Hiraishi-san at Eigashima said in his email to me on June 28 that the whisky he provided to Les Whiskies du Monde was not just grain/malt but included molasses spirit etc. He was quite categorical about it. Since Les Whiskies du Monde appears to be saying that it can be the only source of information about the Akashi range (despite the fact that I and others have worked hard to develop relationships and promote Eigashima long before this little farce about some blended whisky cropped up), that question can now only be answered by Les Whiskies and I have put it to them.
What I can tell you is that we decided several months ago with Eigashima Shuzo to create a Blended Akashi whisky for Europe. For strategic reasons, and to be able to distribute this whisky in the best possible conditions in Europe, we decided with Eigashima Shuzo not to inform anyone beforehand. We did not want for our competitors to get the news straight away.
To answer your question, we have always imported the Akashi Blended with malt and grain.
Considering the situation we don't want to communicate in further details about Akashi Blended. Please consider that the subject is now over and close.
Anyway, the really important thing here is that we at last have a categorical assurance from Les Whiskies du Monde that all of this whisky is proper blended whisky from the European standpoint. Akashi's stuff is normally good. I look forward to tasting this new blend and putting this little farce behind us.