Japan’s most famous whisky company, the House of Suntory is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year. Founded by the pioneering Shinjiro Torii, the House of Suntory’s centenary comes at a time of remarkable growth and prosperity for the Japanese whisky industry. “The impact of Suntory on the whisky industry cannot be overstated,” says James Bowker, the global advocacy manager for the House of Suntory.
Bowker reveals that Suntory whisky traces its roots back as far back as 1899, when Torii started importing and selling spirits from right across the world. “Early on, Shinjiro Torii realised that the Japanese palate was inclined to a flavour profile that was more delicate and nuanced than Scottish or American whiskies, so he set out to create his own.” Torii’s dream was to introduce a new style of whisky to Japan and design a profile that was “subtle and refined, yet complex”. In 1923, Yamazaki Distillery, the birthplace of Japanese whisky, was founded to bring Torii’s vision to life. Yamazaki was joined by the Chita Distillery in 1972 and the Hakushu Distillery (pictured above and below) a year later.
Unlike in Scotland, though, where distilleries mostly produce one style, Suntory has its own distinctive approach, with Yamazaki, Hakushu and Chita crafting an array of different whisky profiles at each site.
Bowker explains: “Suntory pioneered the tsukuriwake (diversity in making) technique, wherein they produce innumerable whisky profiles in each distillery by altering production variables throughout the year such as still shapes, peat levels and cask types. This allows them to create malt and blended whiskies that are intricately layered for incomparable complexity.”
To mark 100 years of the House of Suntory’s experimentation and refinement, we’d recommend raising a glass with one of its world-renowned single malts.
Suntory’s flagship single malt, Yamazaki is where Japanese whisky was born. Fresh and fruit-forward, the Yamazaki 12 Year Old displays notes of honey, lemon and spicy ginger thanks to a marriage of carefully blended components aged in American, Spanish and Japanese mizunara oak casks, the latter, Bowker says, helping to “truly capture the spirit of Japan”.
The Yamazaki 18 Year Old isn’t simply six years older than the 12 year old. Aged in rare mizunara oak casks, it’s also made up of different whisky types to achieve a rich and mature expression of Yamazaki’s flavours and aromas: dark cherry, peach, nutmeg and clove. Enjoy it on its own, over ice, or pair it with dark chocolate or sticky pork ribs.
Hakushu is Suntory’s mountain forest distillery, nestled deep in Mount Kaikomagatake. Crisp, herbal and gently smoky, Hakushu 12 Year Old single malt whisky is distilled in direct-fire pot stills and aged in small white oak casks. Its combination of slightly sweet and smoky flavours, with scents of leaves and green fruits, make it ideal for those wanting a more round and complex whisky.
The Hakushu 18 Year Old is an evocative expression of the Southern Japanese Alps where the distillery is located. Ripe apple and pineapple sage aromas merge with notes of sage and honey. Smokier and spicier than Hakushu 12 Year Old, the palate is smoky and backed by a long finish redolent of the mountain forest.
Products featured are available from 22/06/23, while stocks last. Some products or varieties featured may not be available in all stores