Bourbon will always hold the title of America’s spirit, belonging wholeheartedly to the state of Kentucky, but Blanton’s Single-Barrel is actually even more popular in Japan than anywhere else. Despite the immense success it is experiencing today, the initial release of Blanton’s in 1984 completely flopped in the United States. However, it thrived in Japan.
At the time, the bourbon industry in America was floundering. According to Vinepair, the 1970s saw a steep decline in the quality of bourbon production. Lots of bourbons were being made very cheaply, which did not encourage participation from younger drinkers. Meanwhile, the younger Japanese generation was just the opposite, searching for a spirit to call their own to break away from the Scotch and domestic whiskeys their parents drank.
In fact, 51% of bourbon sales were attributed to the Japanese market at that time, which grew by nearly 350% in the 1980s. This is why liquor executives Ferdie Falk and Bob Baranaska came to Elmer T. Lee with the request for a new, special bourbon. Before that, the duo had launched a bourbon in the Japanese market with great success, Blanton’s was another opportunity to do it again, and they did.
Since then, Blanton’s has released numerous editions of its bourbon exclusively for the Japanese market. These include the Blanton’s Single-Barrel Black Label, which now costs, on average, close to $300 a bottle, (via Wine-Searcher), as well as its Cream Label, Takara Red, which sells for an average of $370.