Chris’ note: Today, we have something a little different to share as we get ready to welcome 2022…

As longtime readers may recall, tech expert Jeff Brown lived and worked abroad for two decades. He spent much of that time in Tokyo, Japan. Below, he shares one of his favorite personal experiences from that time… and a “missed” opportunity that put a big smile on his face.

It’s all to do with a high-quality whisky vintage. You might want to cozy up with your own favorite drink… Then sit back and enjoy.

Living and working in a great city like Tokyo comes with the benefit of having the world’s best products and services available at your fingertips. And in Japan, there’s an inconspicuous and refined nature to what other places normally present with great fanfare.

Amid the cacophony of bright lights and electronics, some of the best restaurants and stores are quietly tucked away – almost as if in an effort not to stand out.

One of my favorite spots was my local liquor shop in a town called Ebisu (恵比寿) in Tokyo. I was fortunate enough to call Ebisu home for almost two decades.

On Friday night or Saturday afternoon, after a terribly busy week of work and travel in Asia, I enjoyed a solitary walk into town to buy a bottle of nihonshu (日本酒 – what most people call “sake”), shōchū (焼酎 – distilled from rice, barley, potato, or brown sugar), or whisky.

It might come as a surprise that Japan loves its whisky. The availability of Scottish single malt whisky in Japan is better than anywhere else I’ve seen in the world. I felt spoiled by the sheer breadth and depth of what was available.

Of course, there was a wide range of Japanese whisky available as well. Japan is known for mastering blended whiskies with remarkably smooth tastes. They’re fantastic. But I’ve always been drawn to the distinct flavors of single malts.

Which is why a particular bottle caught my eye one evening…

The Final Vintage

It was a single malt whisky from the old Hanyu distillery outside of Tokyo. I knew that distillery had closed down, which is what made the bottle so interesting.

I inquired and found out the grandson of the founder of the then-defunct distillery had purchased all its remaining barrels. The grandson, Ichiro Akuto, was building a new distillery – the Chichibu distillery – and was bottling the 2000 vintage, Hanyu’s final vintage, which was 10 years old at the time.

I bought both bottles on the shelf. Each cost about $80, well above what was normal. But I’m always excited to try something I haven’t had before.

It was spectacular. Unlike anything I’d tasted before in Japan. It quickly became one of my very favorites. Those bottles weren’t on the shelf every week, but when I saw them, I bought them all. I couldn’t believe something this good was selling at that price.

I brought a bottle of the final vintage with me on a trip to Scotland. A group of my friends had traveled there to see the country, play a round of golf, hunt a Scottish red stag by foot in the highlands, experience a traditional driven grouse hunt, eat haggis, fish, and of course, drink whisky.

One evening, we met with the master distiller of Johnnie Walker whisky. He had held that post for 20 years. He brought a bunch of whiskies for us to try. Of course, I had my special bottle from Japan. It was an understatement to say he was impressed. He couldn’t believe where it came from.

Over the course of a year or so, I gave a few bottles to friends and colleagues. I had the pleasure of sharing bottles with even more. I traveled with bottles whenever I returned to the U.S. And every week I’d stop in my favorite shop to see if there was more.

About a year after my discovery, the whisky’s availability began drying up. I searched other shops with some luck, but it wasn’t easy work.

Then one day, it was gone. After all, it was the final vintage.

Potential 4,300% Return

I knew the day would come. I just hadn’t wanted to think about it. Each bottle was hand-numbered. How many in total? How close had we been to the end? I didn’t know. I didn’t want to know.

More than a year later, my friend reminded me of the bottle I gave him. That led me to check if by some miracle I could find it selling somewhere.

I did, at a famous auction house in Hong Kong… for about $3,500 a bottle.

Had I simply held those beautiful bottles for less than two years, I would have been sitting on roughly a 4,300% return.

It was one of the most obvious investments I’ve ever come across. I deeply understood the quality and how undervalued it was. And there was absolute scarcity.

Yet when I saw the bottle listed at the auction house, I smiled. I had a big laugh, the kind that comes from deep in your belly.

While I miss the vintage dearly, I got great pleasure when it was available. And I was able to share it with friends.

Lives Well Lived

I’ve often wondered about how much fun it would be to create something that good – a fantastic whisky or bourbon – and have the nerve and resolve to conserve its maturation for a decade.

One thing I know is I’d want people to enjoy my finished product. I wouldn’t want it to sit on a shelf as if it were a trophy. I’d much rather know people were appreciating and celebrating it as part of life among people who care about one another… part of lives well lived.

So I won’t regret enjoying those fabulous bottles while they lasted. I won’t regret enjoying life with family and friends.

And I hope you, dear readers, have had the chance to enjoy a nice bottle or two of whatever tickles your fancy with family and friends over the holidays.

I, for one, am thankful for you Legacy Research subscribers. You’ve empowered me to have a platform from which my team and I can positively transform so many lives.

It’s a job we take very seriously. Fortunately, it’s also one we enjoy. And it’s definitely one that benefits from a good, stiff drink every once in a while.

Happy New Year!

We have so much to look forward to.


Jeff Brown
Editor, The Bleeding Edge