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SUNTORY

In 2003 the whisky world was tipped on its head when Suntory of Japan won the gold medal for their Yamazaki 12-Year-Old at the International Spirits Competition in Britain. With the attention of whisky lovers turning to the land of the rising sun they went on to win distiller of the year three times later, at the same competition.

Since then, of course, Japanese whisky has become much more of a ‘thing,’ heavily sought after to the point of being frustratingly difficult or impossible to find, the Yamazaki 12 most of all. What is perhaps less well understood by western aficionados, however, is that Suntory had a very long history of excellence prior to and leading to their success in 2003 (and since).

Indeed, this year Suntory celebrate a century since they opened their Yamazaki Distillery on the outskirts of Kyoto, the first whisky distillery founded on Japanese shores.

With beginnings in the unsuccessful importing of Spanish wine, and a much more lucrative venture making a sweet Japanese Port Wine, Shinjiro Torii had a dream of producing a local whisky. Selecting the site at Yamazaki for its historically renowned source of pure water, Torii battled opposition from his business partners to produce his first whisky: the Suntory Shirofuda.

The Shirofuda was a flop. Too heavily peated for Japanese tastes, Torii had to return to the drawing board. He realised that it wasn’t enough to just produce a good whisky - it also had to suit the palettes and cuisine of his people. He returned in 1937 with the Kakubin. The Japanese loved it, and to this day it remains the number one selling whisky there.

Suntory embarked on a campaign of popularising whisky and creating cocktails that could match local foods, most notably the Mizuwari (basically a whisky highball). Under the leadership of Torii’s son Keizo Saji they opened two more distilleries in the early 1970’s; Chita on the shores of Ise Bay, and Hakushu seven hundred metres up on the slopes of Mount Kaikoma.

In 1984 their first single malt was released (the Yamazaki naturally), with a further edition following from Hakushu, quite recently a grain whisky from Chita, and of course the renowned Hibiki, which is a blend from across the three distilleries.

With third generation family leader Shingo Torii at the helm Suntory are set to continue their long, proud history making some of the world’s finest whisky.
AWARDS & ACCOLADES
5 Star

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