history of suntory

History of Suntory: Origin of Japanese Whisky

Ryan Yip Origin of Distilleries, Whisky Leave a Comment

I believe that most of you have heard of the Yamazaki 12 whiskey from the famous japanese distillery Suntory. However, how many of you know the origin of this godly distillery? Let me take you through the interesting history of suntory.

Where It Began

Shinjiro Torii, founder of Suntory

Shinjiro Torii, the founder of Suntory founded the Suntory company in 1899. As a teenager, Torii would work in a pharmaceutical store where it carried liquor as well. Due to the often exposure to alcohol, that was when Torii developed his great interest in whisky (whiskey without the ‘e’, the scottish spelling).

When he first started the company, he made a fortune by selling sweet Akadama Port Wine which was promoted as a healthy tonic. After selling sweet Port for a while, Torii wanted something new and fresh where he proactively searched for his next conquest. It was at that time that he started to recognize his friend’s desire for Western whiskeys and the astronomically high price that came along with them.

Torii saw the need and took action where he was looking to move into whiskey production.

Father of Japanese Whiskys

Shinjiro Torii carefully chose the region of Yamazaki in 1923 for its pristine 3 joining rivers with perfect geographical condition to produce whiskey. Yamazaki locates on the outskirts of the ancient capital Kyoto, in between two mountains, Tennozan and Otokoyama.

The Yamazaski distillery

Masataka Taketsuru (another man that would be considered to be the father of Japanese Whiskys) worked 10 years with Shinjiro Torii before leaving and establishing his own distillery, NIKKA.

Torii would start producing his first every whisky with the name ‘Yamazaki’. ‘Yama’ means mountains and ‘zaki’ means foot of the mountain, which precisdely described the location of the distillery. This whiskey would then proceed to be one of the most successful and most well-known whiskey in the world.

However, back in the day, Yamazaki was not as successful as we thought it would be. Most Japanese people were not used to how smokey the drink was. Even though Torii had to endure through the poor demand for whiskey, it gave him enough time to develop another aged stock named Kakubin (square-bottle). Kakubin whiskey was introduced in the year 1937.

Kakubin whisky from Suntory

The superior blended whiskey Kakubin surprised a lot of people which sparked their interest in whiskey. The popularity of the new blended whisky took off, so did Suntory’s reputation.

Awards and Accolades

International Spirit Challenge 2017

Kakubin and Yamazaki were definitely some of the more important conerstones in the history of Suntory, but there were much more than that as time went on.

The legendary distillery has been sweeping awards left and right throughout the years which put Japanese whiskys on the map or even beating the Scottish at their own game.

Some of the honorable mentions are the Hibiki 21 with the Supreme Champion Spirit Award and World’s Best Blended Whisky, both from the same year, and the Hakushu 25 years with the World’s Best Single Malt Whisky award.

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