The Suntory Yamazaki Distillery is a world-renowned Japanese whisky distillery in the Yamazaki region of Kyoto. Established in 1923 by the founder of Suntory, Shinjiro Torii, it is Japan’s first and oldest malt whisky distillery. Inspired by traditional Scottish whiskey, Torii envisioned a Japanese approach by choosing a terrain and climate completely different from those of Scotland to create a unique kind of whisky.
The Distillery is not only the soul place of Suntory Whisky but also the birthplace of Japanese Whisky. It is known for its exceptional quality and unique flavor profile that sets it apart from other whiskies around the world. It offers 360 virtual tours of its whisky museum, showcasing the history and evolution of Japanese whisky making.
Visitors can learn about the intricate process of whisky production, from the selection of ingredients to the crafting of the final product. The distillery also offers whisky tastings and tours of its facilities, where you can witness the craftsmanship that goes into every bottle of Suntory Yamazaki whisky.
The Distillery was Japan’s first malt whisky distillery, established in 1924 by Shinjiro Torii, the founder of Japanese drinks group Suntory. Torii’s vision was to create a Japanese whisky that could rival the best Scotch whiskies. He chose the location of Yamazaki, near Kyoto, for its pure water source and ideal climate.
The distillery’s first whisky, Suntory Shirofuda (White Label), was launched in 1929. In the 1930s, Suntory began exporting its whisky to the United States and other countries, but production was halted during World War II. After the war, Suntory resumed production and introduced its flagship single malt, Yamazaki, in 1984.
Today, it produces a range of single malt whiskies, including Yamazaki, Hakushu, and Hibiki. The distillery also offers tours and tastings those, and its whisky museum showcases the history and craft of Japanese whisky-making.
Whisky Production Process
The whisky production process at Suntory Yamazaki Distillery is a fascinating and intricate process that involves several steps. Here’s a breakdown of the process:
- Malting: The first step in the whisky production process is malting. Here, the barley is soaked in water to begin the germination process. The barley is then dried and the roots are removed before it is ground into a coarse flour.
- Mashing: The ground barley is mixed with hot water to create a mash. This mixture is then transferred to large tanks where enzymes break down the starch in the barley into sugar.
- Fermentation: Once the sugar has been extracted, yeast is added to the mixture to begin the fermentation process. This process takes several days and produces a liquid called wash, which contains around 8-10% alcohol.
- Distillation: The wash is then transferred to large copper stills where it is heated and distilled. The first distillation produces a liquid called low wine, which is then distilled again to produce a liquid called high wine.
- Maturation: The high wine is then transferred to oak barrels where it is left to mature for several years. During this time, the whisky takes on the flavors and aromas of the oak barrel, resulting in a complex and unique flavor profile.
Tasting Room and Tours
The distillery offers several tours, each with its own unique experiences. The most popular tour is the Distillery Tour, which includes a visit to the production area and the Whiskey Museum, where you can learn about the history of Japanese whiskey and see the various types of barrels used for aging.
After the tour, you can head to the tasting room, where you can sample some of the finest whiskeys produced by Suntory. The tasting room offers whiskeys, including the Yamazaki Single Malt, Hakushu Single Malt, and Hibiki Blended Whiskey. The prices of the whiskeys vary depending on the age and rarity of the whiskey.
If you don’t have time for a full tour, you can still visit the tasting room and enjoy a flight of whiskeys. The tasting room is open from 10:00 am to 4:45 pm, with the last order at 4:30 pm. Note that the tasting room is only open to visitors who have taken a tour of the distillery.
Note that reservations are required for all tours and visits to the Whiskey Museum and tasting room. You can make a reservation through the distillery’s website or by phone. The distillery also offers online tours for those who can’t make it to the distillery in person.
Awards and Recognition
TheDistillery has won numerous awards and accolades for its high-quality whiskies. Here’s a few of the most notable awards:
- Hibiki 21 Years Old: World’s Best Blended Whisky: Icons of Whisky
- Suntory Spirits: Worldwide Whiskey Producer Of The Year Award: World Whiskies Awards
- Yamazaki Distillery: Whisky Visitor Attraction of the Yearz: Hall of Fame
- The House of Suntory Wins Japanese Whisky Distiller of the Year at the 2021 International Spirits Challenge
In addition to these awards, it has also earned global recognition for Japanese whisky. The craftsmen at the distillery have passed on their skills, polished their techniques, and continued their research and development, improving the facilities while creating diversely flavored whiskies.
One of the most sought-after expressions from the distillery is the Yamazaki 1984, which has won multiple awards and sells for over US$10,000 at auction. Another highly acclaimed expression is the Yamazaki Distiller’s Reserve, which embodies the balance between Japan’s nature and its people. It has a rich heritage and depth of flavor that can be enjoyed in many ways.
The Sum Up
The Suntory Yamazaki Distillery is a world-renowned distillery that produces high-quality Japanese whisky. The distillery offers a unique experience to visitors who can take a tour of the facility and learn about the history and process of whisky production. The tour made our list of the best whisky tours in Japan and is well worth the trip.