two glasses of whiskey with ice on a bar counter

We already know there’s some ridiculous champagne being served in first class, but what about the stronger stuff? For customers paying thousands per ticket, some airlines have curated spirit programs rivaling the most celebrated liquor cabinets on the ground. But it’s hard to compete with one airline, serving one of the rarer whiskies, going for north of $500 per bottle…

a suit in a closetANA first class is a celebrated experience, with some of the best service, food and champagne in the sky. But it’s a hidden in plain sight menu item that’s wowing customers. During a recent trip to Japan, we struggled to source a bottle of Hibiki Suntory 21 Year Old Whiskey. Perhaps that’s due to the bottle winning the International Spirits Competition for the last four years, as well as a place in the “Whiskey Bible”, curated by celebrated whiskey critic Jim Murray.

a group of bottles of alcoholBut low and behold, it’s available on all Al Nippon Airways First Class flights. When we say $500 a bottle, that’s if you can find a store which sells it. Supplies are drying up at record pace, as the fabled whiskey grows in popularity. It’s not uncommon to see $750 or more for a single bottle, in major cities around the world. This whiskey gives Emirates Hennessy Paradis a run for it’s money for best booze in the sky. Not that the Krug Grand Cuvee Champagne, also served on ANA is any slouch.

a plane flying in the skyMost excitingly, lucrative opportunities to fly ANA First Class from both Europe and the US are abound using points. There’s a great trick for upgrading from business class, and also for converting Amex or Virgin points, experiencing the legendary service for just 93,000 Amex points. Hey, you only live once- right?

Have you tried Hibiki Suntory 21 Year Old? What did you think?

Copyright: jagcz / 123RF Stock Photo

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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  1. I never tried the whiskey, but I distinctly remember thinking how good the cognac was on that flight to Milan on Emirates. Very fine, indeed.

  2. Yes, 21 is excellent. I have had the 12, 17, 21, and 30 and 21 is my favorite. I was able to purchase a bottle at duty free last year, a limited edition one, for 50,000 yen.

    1. This article is not about when it started, but rather than Hibiki 21 is now scarce and expensive, and is being served.

  3. This is nothing new…they’ve been serving this in F since at least 2014 (when I first flew NH F) and I’m sure before that. The only thing that’s changed is the price of the Hibiki.

    They used to serve the 17 in J though not sure if they still do that or have switched to the NAS in J.

    1. Didn’t say it’s new, just that it’s expensive, and they’re serving it. It wasn’t exciting when it could be purchased anywhere- but now it is. In our opinion…

  4. $500 bottle/ 10-25 shots *whisky
    $200 (higher for some others) bottle champagne//4-5 glasses

    One could say, it’s a wash using maths, but is it?

    Rare whisky, prices driven by market demands from a stranger’s “expert opinion” is an artificial market driven by a rather odd phenomenon, rare isn’t always a good thing, neither is more work & fuss (*** restaurant) for presentation..

    I’ll always take the champagne, probably the greatest field of alcoholic artistry.

  5. Hibiki 21 is great, but the $500 price tag is quite inflated. That’s for a special commemorative bottle at duty free. Until a few years ago the duty free shops in Japan sold the standard bottle for Y15,000, about $150.

    Hibiki 21 is also on offer at the JAL F lounge in NRT, and that’s open to any One World Emerald flyer even if not traveling in F.

  6. If you go to the Ginza Duty Free shop and ask in the whiskey section, they will show you a hidden menu of the Hibiki 17-year and 21-year (and maybe some others – can’t remember). They do not have bottles on site or on display. You purchase at the Ginza shop and pick it up at the airport you are departing from (Haneda or Narita). Yes this bottle is extremely rare, but it can be purchased. Personally, I don’t find the premium for the 21 year absolutely worth it since the 17 year is so damn good at half the price (USD$250). The 17-year is much better than the USD$100 12-year. Just my $0.02

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