Yamazaki 18-Year-Old Mizunara and Hakushu 18-Year-Old Peated Malt are two ultra-premium, limited edition blends that Suntory is releasing in honour of its history.
Japanese whisky has a relatively short but remarkable history. It began in the early 20th century when Shinjiro Torii established the Yamazaki Distillery near Kyoto in 1923, marking the birth of Japanese whisky production. Torii's vision was to create a uniquely Japanese spirit that could rival the quality of Western whiskies. He enlisted the expertise of Masataka Taketsuru, who had studied the art of whisky-making in Scotland. Together, they combined traditional Scottish techniques with local Japanese ingredients to craft a distinct style of whisky.
After learning the craft in Scotland, Taketsuru went on to establish his own distillery, Yoichi, in Hokkaido in 1934. Taketsuru aimed to create a whisky that captured the peaty and rich flavours of Scotch whisky. Over the years, Japanese whisky gained recognition for its exceptional quality and craftsmanship. It started to gain international acclaim, winning prestigious awards and competitions, and earning a reputation for its attention to detail and dedication to excellence. Today, Japanese whisky is celebrated worldwide for its unique flavour profiles and has become a highly sought-after spirit among whisky enthusiasts and collectors alike. Explore the full history of Japanese whisky.
Let's get into the new limited edition offerings.
Yamazaki 18 Year Old Mizunara
Casks: Japanese Mizunara oak
To be clear, the distillery already offers an 18-year-old expression as a staple of its main line. However, that one is made up of whiskies that have been matured in American, Spanish, and Japanese Mizunara oak. The distillery hasn't used liquids wholly from those treasured Japanese barrels since a super-rare 2017 release that now fetches over $10,000. The limited edition variant does, though.
The creamy, leathery whisky has a fruity aroma that is reminiscent of peaches as soon as you take a sip. Then, the first sip is accompanied by spice, primarily in the form of clove and nutmeg. Finally, it ends with a finish that is tropically influenced and leans toward toasted coconut.
The whisky is bottled at a 48% ABV bottling strength, up from the Yamazaki 18's original 43%. The dram really opens up when you hold it in your hand and take your time exploring it. Which is excellent since you won't want to be in a rush with a bottle costing $1500 to buy.
“The ultimate goal was to create a complex and sophisticated whisky by adding woody and spicy characteristics derived from Mizunara oak barrels to the rich and robust Yamazaki malt” ~ Shinji Fukuyo, 5th generation chief blender for Suntory
Hakushu 18 Year Old Peated Malt
The smoke is the focus of the Hakushu 18 Year Old Peated Malt. But this isn't the kind of iodine-rich peat you'd anticipate from an Islay scotch. There need not be a fire just because there is smoke. The elegance of this dish lies in the harmonious combination of a barbecue-forward smell and a taste that sings with gentle sweetness; picture orchard fruit touched with wildflower honey.
“We wanted to create a peaty, smoky-yet-fruity whisky with a taste of Japanese elegance. Smokiness is a key flavour of the Hakushu brand.” ~ Shinji Fukuyo, 5th generation chief blender for Suntory
The History Of Suntory
The history of Suntory dates back to 1899 when it was founded by Shinjiro Torii as a small wine store in Osaka, Japan. Originally named Torii Shoten, the company began by importing and selling imported wines and spirits, catering to the growing demand for Western alcoholic beverages in Japan.
In 1923, Torii embarked on a mission to create Japan's first domestically produced whisky. He built Japan's first whisky distillery in Yamazaki, near Kyoto, taking advantage of the region's pure water sources and favourable climate for whisky production. In 1929, the distillery released its first whisky, which was named "Suntory Shirofuda," marking the beginning of Suntory's whisky legacy.
After the success of its whisky, the company expanded its portfolio to include other alcoholic beverages. In 1963, Suntory introduced the iconic "Suntory Old" whisky, which became immensely popular in Japan and helped solidify the company's position as a leading spirits producer.
In the 1980s, Suntory further expanded its presence in the global market. It acquired the French distiller and spirits company, Orangina, and established joint ventures with international companies, including PepsiCo. This expansion allowed Suntory to diversify its offerings and reach a broader consumer base.
Suntory continued to innovate and push boundaries in the spirits industry. In 1984, they introduced the world to Hibiki, a premium blended whisky that showcased the artistry of Japanese whisky blending. Hibiki quickly gained recognition and became a symbol of Japanese whisky craftsmanship.
About Suntory Today
Suntory, founded in 1899, is a renowned Japanese beverage company that has grown into a global powerhouse in the industry. Today, Suntory Holdings Limited is a diversified company with a wide range of products, including alcoholic beverages, non-alcoholic beverages, food products, and health supplements.
In the realm of whisky, Suntory is recognized as one of the leading producers of Japanese whisky. Their whisky portfolio includes popular brands such as Yamazaki, Hakushu, and Hibiki. Suntory's whiskies are known for their exceptional quality, craftsmanship, and attention to detail, embodying the artistry and precision for which Japanese products are renowned.
Beyond whisky, Suntory has expanded its reach in the global market with other beverage offerings. The company produces a variety of non-alcoholic beverages, including soft drinks, teas, and coffee. They are also involved in the production of beer, wine, and spirits, catering to diverse consumer preferences.
Suntory's commitment to sustainability and environmental responsibility is evident in their practices. The company actively promotes initiatives to reduce carbon emissions, conserve water resources, and engage in biodiversity conservation efforts.
With its rich history, commitment to quality, and innovative spirit, Suntory continues to thrive as a respected brand in the beverage industry, both in Japan and around the world.