Suntory Yamazaki Distillery, the origin of Japanese whiskey

Suntory Yamazaki Distillery, the origin of Japanese whiskey

Whisky making loved by the Japanese

There was a time when domestic whiskey was considered a substitute for expensive imported whiskey. However, its popularity has now reversed. Popular domestic whiskey is sold at a much higher price than imported whiskey, and some of them have become “overpriced flowers. Suntory Yamazaki Distillery, the oldest malt whiskey distillery in Japan, is the origin of Japanese whiskey. Without this distillery, the current global Japanese whiskey boom would not have been possible.
The distillery’s mission was to “create a whiskey loved by the Japanese people and suited to the climate of Japan. It was 1923 when Shinjiro Torii, the founder of Kotobukiya (later to become Suntory), built a distillery in Yamazaki, Shimamoto-cho, Mishima-gun, Osaka Prefecture. Since then, Suntory has continued to make its own whisky here. Yamazaki is located at the foot of Mt. Tennozan, where the tea master Sen no Rikyu built his tea house, and is rich in high-quality groundwater called “Rikyu-no-mizu” (water from a remote palace). Nearby is the confluence of three rivers, the Uji, Katsura, and Kizu Rivers, which creates fog, which provides the perfect humidity for the aging of whiskey.

Whiskey with attention from the barrel

The Yamazaki distillery features a wide variety of sake making processes. We use wooden and slainless steel fermenters, distillation kettles of different materials and sizes, and different types of barrels to produce a wide variety of sake. The master blender blends them to create a unique flavor,” says whisky ambassador Taichi Sasaki.
The Yamazaki name is well known around the world, and tours are very popular. The tour of the historic distillery led us to a spacious storage facility. The cellar was filled with the mellow aroma of whiskey, and a vast number of casks were lined up in rows. As Mr. Sasaki explained, there are many different sizes and types of casks. It is no exaggeration to say that the quality of the whiskey depends on the quality of the barrels. Suntory makes its own barrels at its own factory, with the belief that good sake cannot be made if the production of barrels, which play such an important role, is left to others. Puncheon barrels, which are often used to store Yamazaki, are made from American white oak, and sometimes the blender himself goes to the U.S. to check with his own eyes which trees are suitable for puncheon,” says Mr. Sasaki.

The last step is, of course, tasting. The single malt, fresh from the barrel, is highly aromatic and has a deep flavor. Nakada, who does not usually drink whiskey, was surprised at the richness of the flavor. At this distillery, some of the longer bottles are aged for several decades. It is not unusual for the blender to be replaced during that time. Making the original sake is like passing the baton to the future, decades later. The responsibility is great, but it is precisely because the process has been repeated for nearly 100 years that Yamazaki has become so popular today.


Suntory Yamazaki Distillery
5-2-1, Yamazaki, Shimamoto-cho, Mishima-gun, Osaka
TEL 075-962-1423