What can Americans and Scottish whiskey distilleries learn from the car industry?

These days Americans and Scottish whiskey distilleries might feel uncomfortable on the news that the title of the finest whiskey in the world has been given to their Japanese competitor (The telegraph Nov 4, 2014.)
The Yamazaki Single Malt Sherry Cask 2013 became the "World Whiskey of the Year" out of 4,500 others by the recognized connoisseur Jim Murray. However, this prize is perhaps just the tip of a long learning and continuous improvement journey. Yamazaki has been doing whisky since 1923 in Japan and "Japanese distillers regularly wins whiskey competitions, even in Scotland" (Washington Post Nov 5, 2014)
How an Asian maker is beating its Scottish and Americas such as Jack Daniels in a craft that has been part of their history and tradition for hundreds of years?

Searching for an answer, I found little written about the reasons behind the Japanese whiskey successes. In an article at qz.com, its author mentions two reasons: (1) a less rooted tradition that allowed experimentation and (2) good quality water:
"New York Magazine’s Jordana Rothman points to the youth of Japan’s whisky industry, which she says makes it “less shacked to tradition.” Yamazaki also has the benefit of its mineral water which “is treasured enough to be bottled and sold on its own.” Its wood barrels, meanwhile, are made of a native oak, mizunara, which Rothman writes “impart an almost ecclesiastic perfume you won’t find in any Scotch.”
More than just great quality water
While the lack of tradition and the availability of great quality water may be necessary to create the finest whiskey in the world we must recognized they are absolutely not sufficient. Industry experts should look deeper and perhaps learn from the challenges of their counterparts in the car industry.

In the 70's and 80's, the American and European automobile industry faced a similar situation when Toyota challenged the status quo of the well established big 3 (GM, Ford and Chrysler.) It took several decades and a billions of dollars for these companies to recognize that need for change. It was in this context that the Toyota Production System was studied by MIT and other universities for the benefits of a diverse range of industries far beyond just the car industry or even manufacturing. Are there lessons learned from the car industry that whiskey makers should review? Or are they doomed to repeat the same struggles?

Feeling uncomfortable is not pleasant but it can be a great source to propel innovation and growth for all, even for people who don't drink or care about whiskey. What do you think?


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