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Aug 7, 2013 04:54 PM

Bringing Home Whiskey and/or Bourbon and local or duty free?

Hi. Wife will be returning to the states in a few days and offered to bring home a bottle or two. If I recall correctly last time there, the American brand whiskeys were priced really well, cheaper than in the states. I assume the same with Bourbon. Not sure about the Scotch options. So, looking for some guidance and/or suggestions of what to advise her. What's a good deal and better to buy from a liquor or department store or Duty Free. And for example, is it worth it buying a bottle of Johnnie Blue?

One advantage of Duty Free I suppose is that she can take it carry-on and not worry about security (not sure if they have the same 3oz carry on rule from Japan). I welcome your thoughts.

Thank you,

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  1. Forgot to add - I am also open to Japanese Whiskey...Yamazaki 18? Hibiki? ???? Cheaper in Japan?

    1. I've never found any good deals in any duty free shops. Also if where she clears customs isn't her final destination then she can't carry it the rest of the way.

      2 Replies
      1. re: c oliver

        Customs and Home = the same. Interesting on the pricing...I have found it to be cheaper. OK...thanks for the input.

        1. re: olympusnyc

          Probably just what I've looked at/for. Plus the perfume smells drive me crazy so I don't spend much time there :)

      2. There's a lot of Japanese stuff, some foreign stuff, and a lot of Japan-only foreign stuff you can get for better than US prices from Rakuten or other online retailers or from some brick and mortar shops. DFS isn't really a great deal though. When I say better, it's by a few dollars. Nothing significant. You're better off looking for the Japan-only stuff....BUT, for a better value, sake and shochu are like 50% cheaper in Japan.

        10 Replies
        1. re: Silverjay

          Still have sake and shochu from the last trip so was thinking whiskey...but all good advice. Do you know though, can you take more than 3oz via carry-on when going from Japan to the US?...that was another potential appeal of Duty is after security.

          1. re: olympusnyc

            3oz? That's like a tube of toothpaste...The limit is set by the arrival customs. U.S. is something like 1 or 2 liters. After that, they are supposed to tax you.

            1. re: Silverjay

              I think you are misunderstanding the question. In the U.S., TSA (security) only allows you up to 3 oz. of liquid in your carry-on or they will confiscate it. It makes bringing a bottle of alcohol onboard the airplane impossible unless it was bought after the security check at the airport. He wants to know if Japan has this same limitation at the security for their airports. It has nothing to do with U.S. customs alcohol limits.

              1. re: killersmile

                You cannot bring a bottle of whiskey (or any other liquid) into the US from Japan in a carry-on bag. Flights to the US from abroad are subject to the same rules limiting liquids to 3 ounces as on domestic US flights and international flights originating in the US.
                I brought some Yamazaki from Narita to the US in March - to do so I had to check my bag.
                Hope this is helpful

                1. re: OGguy

                  OGguy -
                  Yes, you got it right. Thanks for clarifying my request. The trade-off is packing it your suitcase (risking breakage and additional weight) vs buying in duty free. Dealing with customs in the US is another matter and my sense is the incoming Japan flights get less scrutiny.

                  1. re: olympusnyc

                    We've packed countless bottles of wine and spirits in checked bags and never had any breakage. Underwear works great for insulating :) You could also transfer it to a plastic container and tape the cap on well.

                    We were going on an extended trip and packed a good bit of booze. Upon xray they notified us that we had exceeded the limit and we could choose which we wanted them to confiscate. They were very nice and apologetic but still had to remove.

                  2. re: OGguy

                    OGguy--I'm not sure that's entirely true. Like killersmile said, once you pass through security, you can purchase any amount of liquid you want and bring it in your carry on PROVIDED you won't be going any further than wherever your plane lands. For example, you can buy a litre of whiskey at Narita duty free located AFTER security, and take it with you on a flight to LAX. As long as LAX is your final destination, you're good to go. But if you're changing planes in LAX to get to PDX or wherever, you're screwed.

                    At least that's what my experience has been.

                      1. re: prasantrin

                        Of course you are right and thanks for the clarification. I was talking about bringing bottles to the airport and going through security with them. Buying from DF shops is the alternative, but limits you to what they sell, which isn't usually very exotic.

                    1. re: killersmile

                      Haha right, no of course you can't bring bottles of booze along with, say, your tablet and a couple of onigiri, in your carry on. Yeah, you have to check it or toss it. I don't think they would confiscate it. It's best to plan for checking your bottles and considering the weight and possible overage charges by the airlines- usually 50lbs. I think.

                      My in-laws once gifted me some shochu that is cheaper in Japan. It was several liters over the limit you are allowed, even in checked luggage. I had planned and brought in that amount before without incident. But as this was unplanned and my wife felt obligated to accept the gift and carry it home, I had to jam it all into my checked bags which of course brought the weight above 50lbs., incurring a $50 penalty that I couldn't negotiate around, and thus totally negating any discount I may have enjoyed actually purchasing the stuff in Japan.

                      Anyway, my advice is still to look for one-off Japan-only bourbon and Scotch and plan accordingly for weight in your checked luggage. I don't think, for example, saving a few bucks on Yamazaki 12-yr in Japan is worth it.

              2. It has to go in checked luggage. I always pack some bubble wrap and a couple 2 gallon zip top bags, that way if a bottle does get broken (which has never happened) the bag will hopefully contain the liquid (not guaranteed, broken glass could cut the bag) and prevent damage to my other possessions.

                I would look for unique stuff that isn't normally exported. Ichiro's Malt for example rather than waste my customs allowance on stuff I can get at home. In my case I can't get any of the Suntory stuff in the local market, only Nikkei is imported here so I will grab a Yamazaki or Hibiki if I'm running low.

                2 Replies
                1. re: bytepusher

                  Decided on Hibiki 21 (though about 24 hours to change my mind). Hard enough to find and the price seemed relatively reasonable.

                  Duty Free had a website ( which states - ¥15,000 Domestic Retail Price in Japan¥21,000.

                  1. re: olympusnyc

                    Check out a discount retailer chain called Yamaya. I would bet they can slightly beat the duty free price.

                2. So, to bring this to closure. Much appreciated, wife came home with bottles of Hibiki 21 and Hibiki 17, a bottle of Kobota Manjyu and Hakkaisan Honjozo. No issues at customs; sake in luggage, whiskey hand-carried. No inspection.

                  Happy camper.