Suntory Japanese Whisky Has Been Spotted At Costco, But Shoppers Aren't Happy About The Price

Suntory is one of the biggest whisky distilleries in Japan. It has been at the forefront of the Japanese whisky boom that started in the 2000s and shows no signs of slowing down. The increased demand has been notoriously difficult for the Japanese whisky market to navigate, though they've been doing a decent enough job at it. When your product requires years of maturation to produce, ramping up production isn't as simple as flipping a switch. 

Costco members lucky enough to have stores nearby that sell liquor are starting to notice the Suntory whisky on offer. But Suntory products have been sold at Costco for several years now, so it isn't the product itself that's catching their eye – it's the new price tag. As anyone who understands how markets work could have predicted, the increased demand combined with the lack of supply to meet that demand has resulted in steady price increases for Suntory's whiskies over the past several years.

Suntory celebrated its 100th anniversary last year and took the occasion to announce its plans to increase production by 2027. To that end, Suntory has invested millions of dollars into its facilities. That means the company is currently eating higher operational costs but is not yet able to reap the benefits of increased profits, which are expected to result from those investments. This leads us to Suntory's second announcement last year: price hikes.

Suntory whisky is getting more expensive

Before we get deep in the weeds on how expensive Suntory products have become, we'd like to clarify that the company doesn't appear to be completely in control of how its whisky is sold. Suntory has publicly expressed how uneasy it is about the discrepancy between its Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) and the actual price its products are sold at. Over the past few years, it wouldn't be uncommon to see Suntory whisky being sold for almost twice the MSRP to customers willing to pay it.

Despite the company's apparent resistance to the MSRP discrepancy, last year Suntory announced major price hikes across the board with some bottles jumping a full 125% in price. These price hikes went into effect on April 1, 2024, which is one reason why Costco members are now getting hit with sticker shock. Part of this has to do with the more general inflationary economy we're living in and part of this has to do with Suntory's recent investments. But even with the increased MSRP, retailers are still selling Suntory whisky above the suggested price.

Take the Yamazaki 12-year whisky (which Tasting Table recently reviewed), for example. Before the price hikes, the MSRP was around $64 and now it's roughly $96. At liquor stores across the country, you'll find the 12-year being sold for $200 and the secondary market prices are even higher than that. The $140 Costco price looks pretty good in that light. Of course, there are more affordable Japanese whiskies at Costco that are just as flavorful.