• 34 COOL
  • 12
    Ranking

Japanese whisky keeps evolving even after 90 years of innovations

Suntory Yamazaki Distillery in Osaka pref. near Kyoto has been a home of fine water from ancient times. This is the first malt whisky distillery in Japan, which began groundbreaking in 1923 and has operated for over 90 years. In recent years, Japanese whisky has earned a worldwide reputation for high quality. This distillery can be called the birthplace of all today’s Japanese whiskies.
“Naturally, when the company was founded, we started out by learning to make Scotch whisky. But we aimed to create world-class quality with uniquely Japanese taste that we could proudly present. So we’ve continued to introduce innovations while sticking to the original production process of Scotch whisky.”
“90 years of innovations have culminated in the high reputation of today,” says Seiichi Koshimizu, the emeritus chief blender. Mr. Koshimizu is the foremost blender of Suntory, who brought Suntory classics such as Yamazaki and Hibiki to the world.

Unceasing quest becomes the engine of whisky making

There are 16 pot stills (distillation stills) of various shapes at the Yamazaki Distillery and each still is used to produce a distinct type of whisky. This is a unique characteristic of the distillery that is almost unparalleled in the world. Producing various whiskies in a distillery and blending them to create whiskies with complex aromas — this is the Suntory way.
“I think this represents unique Japanese manufacturing. You can find artisanal spirit in attention to detail and a strong will to improve in every process of production. As long as the workers continue to build on the tradition of improvement, I believe Japanese whiskies will achieve further advances.”
Mr. Koshimizu, who has spent over 40 years in whisky making, still encounters new discoveries today. And this is what enthralls him about whisky making.
“Blending well-made whiskies does not necessarily produce a good-tasting whisky. Also, while the balance in flavor is important, it does not simply mean making the blend mild by softening the edge of taste. What’s most important is to draw out the distinctive quality of each whisky and give a character to the final product.”

“Highball” revitalized the Japanese whisky market

“Highball” is one of many ways to enjoy whisky. It’s a cocktail of whisky and soda. We call whisky and ginger ale or whisky and cola “highball” as well. It was first popularized by TV commercials in the 1960s, and it has become popular again in recent years. We went to interview Kazunari Maguchi of Ginza “Rock Fish” bar, the self-proclaimed “house of highballs” which ignited the 21st century highball boom.
“In our bar, we pour 60ml of whisky into a glass that has been cooled in the freezer, then add 190ml of soda. A lemon peel is added for flavor. We pour the soda quickly so muddling isn’t necessary. We don’t even put in ice cubes. Highballs are great for a group having a fun time. They go well with any type of food so people can enjoy a wide range of cuisines.”
An appetizer made of canned sardines in oil is popular among the bar patrons. The simple recipe is as follows. You add sake and soy sauce to the sardines (oil removed), and simmer for 2 to 3 minutes with Japanese pepper berries on top and a hint of black pepper. According to Mr. Maguchi, this goes better with blended whisky than malt whisky. His style is to use “revived” Suntory Whisky Kakubin 43%. The trick to enjoying highballs at home is constant strength, as drinks tend to get stronger as you go.

Typical WHISKY

  • HakushuHakushu
  • Hibiki (17 years old)Hibiki (17 years old)
  • YamazakiYamazaki
  • KakubinKakubin

Seiichi Koshimizu's Favorite Tools

  • Tasting glass

    Tasting glass

    Tasting glasses are indispensable to the work of blenders. Scale lines are inscribed on the glasses for tasting watered-down whiskies to evaluate changes in taste. Blenders may taste up to 200 samples before noon only.

RAMEN
ラーメン
WHISKY
ウイスキー
WASABI
山葵
SUKIYAKI
すき焼き
Soba (Japanese traditional noodles)
日本蕎麦
Karaoke
カラオケ
Iced coffee
アイス珈琲
Kaminari-mon
雷門
Yakatabune
屋形船
Ramen Museum
ラーメン博物館
Scramble crossing
スクランブル交差点
Gundam 1/1
ガンダム1/1
Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium
美ら海水族館
Village of Long Life
長寿の里
Okinawa soba
沖縄そば
Umi-budoh
海ぶどう
Japan
Final Fantasy VI
Mexico
Street Fighter 4
Brazil
Final Fantasy VI
Thailand
Summer Wars
Harajuku girl leads next-generation kawaii.
I want to become Hello Kitty, the icon of Japan.
Toybox kawaii shop shows people power.
Cute community character promotes local charms.
Small Torii
小さな鳥居
Tea master
茶道家
Kyoto Proverbs
Uchimizu
打ち水
3D LATTE ART
the ultimate shape of art to come — too cute to drink?
SPACE BROTHERS
super-popular manga depicts the dreams of youths dedicated to space
KOBE TETSUJIN 28-GO
mega-size robot who saves the peace in Kobe city
OSAMU TEZUKA
creator of Japan’s manga and anime cultures
Wrapping
ラッピング
SIRI SIRI
SIRISIRI
Kimono
着物
Tenugui (Japanese towels)
手拭
TAKU OBATA
TABAIMO
KOHEI NAWA
YAYOI KUSAMA
NEBUTA MATSURI
AWA ODORI
NIIHAMA TAIKO MATSURI
NACHI-NO-OGI MATSURI
SADO
茶道
KYUDO
弓道
NIHONBUYO
日本舞踊
IAI
居合
SUMI-SHOKUNIN
墨職人
KATANA-KAJI
刀鍛冶
FOOD MODEL CRAFTSMAN
食品サンプル職人
SAMURAI AVATAR
侍アバター