My first time trying the Yamazaki 12

Sometimes the best things on earth are found by accident - the so called hidden treasures in life. These treasures can be found by rummaging through a dumpster, cleaning out a house or simply by walking into a random and seeing something worth buying. For me this was the Suntory's Yamazaki 12 year old whisky. I was always on the fence about trying Japanese whisky. I heard all the rumours about how tasty and savory these whiskies could be but I never jumped on the bandwagon; that is until a few months ago. The Yamazaki 12 lives up to all the talk and packs a tasty flavor profile suited for any level of scotch drinker. The nose is huge bodied with scents of macadamia and Brazilian nuts which I perceive as bits of dragon-fruit. The palate is smooth and soft enhancing that fruit you smelt a few moments ago and the finish... we'll that's the best part. You'll just have to see for yourself. Personally I like to let this one sit in a Glencairn glass for a good ten minutes to really give the whisky a chance to work its magic. Kudos to Suntory for breaking the mold and creating an exquisite single malt.

The Yamazaki Club holds its first premium seminar

June 13 (Saturday), despite the rainy weather, the Yamazaki Club holds its first premium seminar at Yamazaki Distillery. The seminar, is different from your normal factory tours and allows access to exclusive VIP-only rooms and areas within the distillery that the public has never seen.

The first part of the seminar is the Fujii Takahisa factory and distillery tour, the second part is the Master of whiskey seminar which is a luxurious two-part lecture by Sasaki Taichi who is a whisky specialist. The Yamazaki club members, (which consists of 9 lucky guests selected from amongst 3000 people that applied were able to participate in this first event.) A diverse mix of guests that arrived from all over the country.

The participants filled the guest room which has a stunning view of a fresh bamboo forest landscape that spread outside the large windows which is located behind the Yamazaki Distillery. You can feel a rich aura of nature within a variety of locations in the distillery. The chief executive of Yamazaki appeared to greet the guests and gave an outline of what is to come for the day.

The premium seminar started with a walking tour of the four new distillation kettles that were installed in 2013. The new stills are very similar to the kettle shape of the original that replaced the straight head type. The Yamazaki Distillery, founded in 1923 at that time had straight shaped stills. However, the realized that the size and shape of the kettle affects whisky flavor in every detail so they experimented with using different distillation kettles varieties."

The usual tour followed and guests entered the fermentation room where the tanks can be seen only through a window-lined barrier. A large tree tub arrangement in the room is the source of the warm air that seeps moisture and gives out a variety of scents such as fruity aroma and sweet and sour flavor. "The character of the whisky is determined by its ingredients and Yamazaki whisky is known to have its natural sweetness from its famous water. When allowed to stand by the addition of best waters of Yamazaki was warmed to barley malt can sweet wort. Than sweet watermelon It is about a little more sweet. Not only stainless steel tanks, is to use the old-fashioned wood tub, depending on activity of lactic acid bacteria that take corners Kioke, because the flavor can not be obtained only with a wooden tub is obtained. "  People of your participation, such as how the mash in the fermentation is bubbling in Kioke, while housed in a photograph a scene that can not be in quite the eye, we have listened to intently.

The distillation chamber distillation kettle-lined, humid heat such as sauna. "We distilled here mash having been subjected to fermentation. This is the kettle just beginning to distillation. It is by looks how you boiling mash is foamy high" With cheers of "many", it was simultaneously directed the camera to the kettle that Fujii factory length is pointed. "Alcohol in the first round of distillation called Hatsutamari to about 20 percent. This is alcohol content about 60% of whiskey obtained in the second distillation, called re-reservoir" Newborn whiskey called New pot is colorless and transparent. "Please, please try smelled the scent." And a sample that has been placed in the bottle was proffered. To smell the scent of new pot for the first time experience for many people, it is closer to the nose, seriously everyone tries Kokumo to store the aroma.

Finally to storage. Cool as a cool even in summer is in the dim storage. Here, there was a description of the barrel. "At Suntory, bourbon barrels made of white oak of the United States production, Hoggusuheddo, Puncheon, sherry butt which is made of common oak Spanish production, we are storing the whiskeys in the Japanese oak barrels and a variety of barrels produced in grosseserrata domestic . complex taste of Suntory whiskey, including Yamazaki, born by variety of whiskeys born from different barrels combine. Suntory is a rare whiskey maker in the world that has a barrel factory in-house. "

Upon exiting out of the reservoir, before manicured Japanese garden is the eye. While it is healed in green trees shining in clear weather, and went back to the guest room in the guidance of the Fujii plant. Day-to-day site clarity of Fujii plant unique to take command of the whiskey produced in, and was the state of also satisfied everyone for your participation in the commentary rich in expertise.

The second half of only three people have not yet been certified in Japan, "Master of whiskey ※" The premium lecture by Taichi Mr. Sasaki. Introduction and beer of whiskey in general, of the manufacturing process as compared to the shochu description, such as the principle of distillation, was commentary by using the chart. Height 195 cm or more, based on the dominating volleyball player as a representative of Japan, also narrative met with current is also active as a commentator of the game vivacity. Theoretical talk often lecture also went tempo well.

"In the distillery of the birthplace of single malt whiskey, Scotland, generally one of the distillery does not do that properly using multiple distillation kettle. But in Yamazaki Distillery, as various forms that you have seen in the first half of the tour I am using the distillation kettle. why. In Scotland, but there is a custom to buy and sell the whiskeys between the distillery, Yamazaki Distillery because it was the first time the distillery in Japan, but I had no choice but to divide made in-house . Now, to make classification and blending technology of its variety of whiskeys has been recognized worldwide. "

The detailed lecture also for barrel making. Especially about the scarcity of Japanese oak material to make an indispensable Japanese oak barrels to Yamazaki, itself was commentary along with the photo of when I visited the locality of Japanese oak. "When I say the origin of Japanese oak material, might be imagined a forest of Japanese oak, it is very rare tree that does not grow only about one to several hundred meters and when I actually went. Barrels material in the 100 years old and it is to be able to make, that 200 years large 径木 only. everyone I think from one tree and can many barrels? and I do not make only about a few barrels " People of your participation will roar once again, the voice of amazement went up.

'10, '20, And '50, whiskey itself also takes a long storage time. But if you think from the barrel building to be used for storage, further over a much longer time, Yamazaki it has been made.
Then, there is talk about the differences of taste derived from the barrel, it is time for the start of the finally the long-awaited tasting. In front of the people of participants, Panchon barrel whiskeys, sherry barrel whiskeys, Japanese oak barrel whiskeys, wine barrel whiskeys, Yamazaki 12-year and five tasting item has been prepared.

"In a normal seminar will be tasting the Yamazaki configuration whiskeys that are not put out. First of all from. Green apple like smell does not or Panchon. Shelley red fruit, grosseserrata I think you death oriental scent . Then, when the end to savor the Yamazaki '12, good balance, you should able again noticed in the taste. "

Then further, special Japanese oak that will not appear in any way to the seminar, including Sherry, four special tasting item has been served by surprise. From the people of the participants it was about leaking the voice of admiration of sigh.

To everyone all of the day participants, special souvenir is also available. Addition to the "Yamazaki 700ml Yamazaki Distillery limited label", "barrels story name into ballpoint pen", further Fujii plant itself was special Botorutagu 2 Tsuoo pass engraved with your name each and every participant. When Botorutagu are dealt, especially big cheer went up. It remains which is not Yara cold excitement, Fujii factory length, is performed commemorative photograph with Mr. Sasaki to conclude premium seminars.

"You can tour the distillery slowly, Fujii factory it is very glad to have been able to question directly to the length" I've participated, "I have been allowed to tasting items like a dream," and "expect, with everything more than expected did"

It your impressions from everyone as "very satisfied", is the first premium seminar, now that the very in certain significance. Fujii plant also "It was very glad to be able to talk directly with everyone that I am loved Yamazaki Koyonaku. Continue to strive to improve the quality, we would like to deliver a better whiskey to everyone", also Sasaki said "everyone, very hard and have been participating in the seminar, it was also seminars to be stimulating as his. acquaintance - it is talking with all means want to convey the depth of Yamazaki "towards friends, and I am loved Yamazaki on a daily basis it can be a variety of talk and everyone who is, it became a very happy day.

※ "Master of whiskey" is, Mamoru Mr. Tsuchiya of whiskey critic, the highest level title of the qualification system of whiskey that started from 2004. And wearing the correct knowledge of the whiskey manufacturing and culture, it was started for the purpose of development of human resources to information dissemination. Qualifications in order of level are three stages of "whiskey expert," "whiskey professional," "Master of whiskey", the highest level "Master of whiskey", is achieved by taking a paper examination, written examination, oral examination which includes blind tasting. In Japan, only three people have been certified to the master of whiskey. (July 2015 currently)

Kotobukiya Limited & Akadama Port Wine

Shinjiro Tori (1879-1962), founder of Suntory
Japanese Whisky’s Beginnings: Import absolutely not required It was Shinjiro’s strong conviction that the production of Western liquor was means of enriching the nation. “imports of Western liquor means that precious foreign currency flows out to other countries. I very much want to prevent this. The only way to do so is to produce goods that are superior to imported goods.” In 1929, Japan’s first authentic whisky was launched under the name Suntory Shirofuda, meaning white label. The tag line reads, “Import absolutely not required.” The words express the joy of perfecting Japan’s first whisky, and the enthusiasm and hardship that went into the long-held dream to create a Japanese whisky with their own hands that was equal to authentic Scotch whisky, all the while being told it was impossible.

In 1892, Shinjiro Torii joined the pharmaceutical wholesaler Konishi Co., Ltd. in Dosho-machi, Osaka. In addition to Western medicines, the company sold Western liquors including wine, brandy, and whisky. This store nurtured the seeds that blossomed in later years, turning Shinjiro into Japan's pioneer of whisky. In 1899, at age twenty, Shinjiro Torii opened his own company. his first hit product was a fortified wine called Akadama Port Wine. This sweet wine went on sale in 1907 and became the starting point for Suntory business operations. Shinjiro Torii invested the profit of Akadama to the production of whisky.

Bottle of Akadama Port Wine
Bottle of Akadama Port Wine
This sweet wine went on sale in 1907 and became the starting point for Suntory business operations. It also laid the foundation for a process that devotes time and finances to the production of whisky. (The display item dates from the Taisho Period (1912-1926)).

Konishi Co., Ltd.
Employees of Kotobukiya LimitedFollowing a 7-year apprenticeship at Konishi Co., Ltd., Shinjiro set off on his own and opened "Torii Shoten" in 1899. In 1921, he established "Kotobukiya Limited" with 1 million yen in capital and launched a modern operation. Pictured is Kotobukiya Limited in the Taisho Period (1912-1926), located in Sumiyoshi-cho, Osaka. At the time, there were around 10 employees. (Photographed around 1914)

The Akadama Nude Poster
The Akadama Nude Poster
This was the first nude poster in Japan. The model was Emiko Matsushima, the prima donna of the Akadama Opera Company, a troupe organized to advertise Akadama Port Wine. In that era, pictures showing bare shoulders were not permitted in public. This poster was submitted to an exhibit of international posters held in Germany and awarded first place. (created in 1922)

Akadama Newspaper Ad

Akadama Newspaper Ad
This one-page newspaper ad for Akadama Port Wine caused a sensation. Readers were astonished at this ad that featuring "Akadama Port Wine" scraled in large letters written with poor penmanship that filled up an entire page of local news. The newspaper company was overwhelmed with people objecting to having a newspaper delivered that was defaced by a child's scribbles. The advertising department of Kotobukiya was excited the response. This ad was responsible for making the name "Akadama Port Wine" well known to the public. (January 11, 1920)

Miyako Hotel New Archaic - Kansai’s newest gathering place

If you are looking for a hotel in Osaka that is reasonably priced ($150/night) and has easy access to the Yamazaki Distillery, I recommend The Miyako Hotel New Archaic. It's not in a touristy district like Namba or Umeda but there are still places to eat and shop around here. I chose to stay here for a night mainly because its only one train ride away from the Yamazaki Distillery and you wouldn't have to do much walking or train transfers.  

The Amagasaki JR train station is only about a 5-10 min short walk from the hotel and the train ride to the Yamazaki station is only about 30 min. *TIP* Make sure you take the JR line and not the Hanshin line. The fare is ¥640 yen (roughly $5) and its the recommended way to get to the distillery. You have the option to take a cab but it will probably cost you ¥5,000 or more. I wouldn't suggest driving either because there are no parking slots at the distillery and you will most likely will be drinking whisky.

Located between the cities of Osaka and Kobe, and offering easy access to the Osaka Airport and the Kansai International Airport, Amagasaki City is ideally positioned as the venue of choice for gatherings in the Kansai area. And at the heart of Amagasaki City lies the Miyako Hotel New Archaic, a cosmopolitan hotel rising 100 meters into the Amagasaki skyline. A member of the Miyako Hotels & Resorts, the Miyako Hotel New Archaic offers world-class service and hospitality, a wealth of choices in dining, complete banquet services, and a full range of business facilities. For business, special events, or just quiet moments by yourself or with friends, the Miyako Hotel New Archaic is pleased to comply with various requests.

Banquets for all occasions
Small private parties, grand wedding receptions, officiation functions… the Miyako Hotel New Archaic can help ensure the success of any size gathering for any occasion. The 15 banquet halls and function rooms include a large banquet hall capable of accommodating 480 guests for formal dinners or 800 guests for buffet style functions as well as party rooms with spectacular day and night time views. And after the event, the festivities can continue at any of the Hotel’s 6 restaurants and bars.

A perfect setting for that special day
To create a wedding ceremony most suitable to the bride and groom by expressing themselves in every detail in the ceremony. That is the most important concept for the Miyako Hotel New Archaic when hosting guests at a bridal reception. A marriage ceremony at the Miyako Hotel New Archaic can create beautiful memories that will be treasured forever. From the ceremony in our beautiful chapel, to the lavish reception afterwards, the Miyako Hotel New Archaic will make sure that every detail is carefully planned and perfectly executed. The superb food and excellent service, both in the renowned Miyako Hotel tradition, will ensure that your guests also take home memories that will last a lifetime. 

A wealth of choices in fine and casual dining
With six world-class bars and restaurants, Miyako Hotel New Archaic provides ample choices for fine dining & relaxing. On the 22nd floor, the TOP OF THE CRYSTAL sky bar presents a stunning panorama of Osaka Bay, while the KIFUNE Teppanyaki restaurant serves the finest Japanese beef with the freshest ingredients. On the 21st floor, the TSUNOKUNI kaseki restaurant offers an unmatched Japanese dining experience. On the 1st floor, the AZALEA restaurant features a richly varied menu alongside the inviting LOUNGE off the lobby. And the SAI-EN restaurant on the 1st floor below ground serves authentic Chinese delicacies. Our bars and restaurants will surpass your expectations with first-class flavors matched to the four seasons.

Miyako Hotel New Archaic
Address: 2-7-1 Showadori, Amagasaki, Hyogo Prefecture 660-0881, Japan
Phone: +81 6-6488-7777

How to drink Yamazaki Whisky - As recommended by the Yamazaki Distillery experts

So what’s the best way to enjoy your Yamazaki Single Malt Whisky? Well of course it would depend on which bottle you have as each has its recommended ways. There are no rules set in stone but it would typically be a waste to mix an older bottle such as the Yamazaki 25 with soda or in fact anything at all (including ice). However, a better bottle suited for mixing would be the “No Age” Yamazaki where you can become quite adventurous and even experiment with different ways to prepare your drink. The following below are the 6 recommended ways to enjoy your bottle of Yamazaki whisky as taught by the Yamazaki Distillery experts.

Yamazaki "No Age" Fireball
Whisky and Soda (Sparkling Water or Sprite) - Highball 
  1. Fill a glass to the brim with ice and allow it to chill.
  2. Pour in the whisky and stir well.
  3. Top off the glass with more ice.
  4. Add soda (1 part whisky and 3 to 4 parts soda) and stir once with a bar spoon.
During my current visit to Osaka, this seems to be a very popular drink at bars and restaurants. They even serve them in ready to drink cans as pictured here.

This is me enjoying my Suntory Highball at the Don Quijote store in Dotonbori.

Yamazaki Mineral Water sold at the Yamazaki Distillery

Whisky & Natural Mineral Water
  1. Fill a glass to the brim with ice and allow it to chill.
  2. Pour in the whisky and stir well. 
  3. Top off the glass with more ice.
  4. Add natural mineral water (1 part whisky and 2 to 2.5 parts water) and stir gently with a bar spoon.
A bit too much ice and H20 for me but for those who find the alcoholic vapors too offensive, this might be the way to go.
Yamazaki 12 on the rocks

On The Rocks
  1. Add a large chunk of ice to a glass.
  2. Add the whisky and stir gently with a bar spoon.
Best with done with a large sphere of ice instead of little ice cubes so that it chills the whisky enough without diluting the whisky.

Half Yamazaki Whisky Half Mineral Water

Twice Up
  1. Pour the whisky into a glass.
  2. Pour in an equal amount of natural mineral water stored at room-temperature.
For some a drop of water is enough to open up the flavor but this way recommends an equal amount. Not my preferred way to enjoy my whisky.

Yamazaki 18 with a large chunk of ice.

Half Rock
  1. Add a large chunk of ice to a glass.
  2. Add the whisky and stir with a bar spoon to chill.
  3. Add an equal amount of natural mineral water and stir again gently.
Similar to drinking it on the rocks but you add more water.

Yamazaki 25 enjoyed Neat

Straight or Neat
  1. Fill a third to a half glass with whisky and sip straight.
  2. *Optional* Prepare a separate glass with iced natural mineral water as a chaser.
IMO the best way to truly enjoy any whisky. Whether it be a single malt, blend or bourbon, you should always sample it neat first before adding anything into it.

I've learned to only drink my whisky neat from the very beginning but it wasn't recently until my recent trip to Japan until I got to properly try a variety of ixes all in one sitting. I really enjoyed the Highball as it makes a perfect refreshment in a hot summer day or even after a heavy workout.

*TIP* The Yamazaki tour offers a free tasting of the "No Age" Yamazaki as a Highball, On the Rocks, or Straight. If you wish to sample the older Suntory whiskies or varieties from all over the world, the tasting room downstairs is one of the most affordable places in the world to do so.

Whisky is Easy on the Body
Low in calories, low in carbohydrates. A single shot of whisky (30ml) with 40% alcohol content has around 68 kilocalories. While brewed beverages like beer, wine and sake contain some carbohydrates, distilled whisky does not contain carbohydrates.

Note: Per 100 grams according to the Standard Tables of Food Compositions in Japan, Fifth Revised Edition (Compiled by the Resources Council, Science and Technology Agency of Japan)

Aromatic Relaxation - The cask raging process produces the characteristically rich aromas of whisky, as soothing to the soul as a walk through a quiet forest.

Almost no purines - A single shot of whisky (30ml) is virtually free of purine content - far less than beer or sake.

Contains polyphenols - Aged whisky contains dissolved polyphenols, which come from the materials used to create the casks in which it is matured for many years.

Yamazaki 18 Single Malt Whisky - Japan Airport Limited Edition Bottle

Yamazaki 18 Japan Airport Limited Edition next to the Hakushu 18 Japan Airport Limited Edition

"Special design epitomizing the delicate beauties of Yamazaki"

It is an elegant flavor refined by the craftsmanship of the climate of the outskirts of Kyoto, an ancient capital with a millenium of history. A bouquet of sweet, gorgeous and estery fragrances reminiscent of flowers and fruits moistens the glass in your heart.

Yamazaki 18 Single Malt Whisky - Japan Airport Limited Edition Bottle 

"Rich with mature fall fruit..."

This limited edition can only be bought from all Japan Airport Duty Free Shops. This particular picture was taken on August 2015 at KIX International Airport in Osaka on the right wing shuttle terminal side after clearing immigration. 

*Tip* - Unlike most duty free shops in other countries, you cannot see the liquor displays from outside the shops so I initially had to walk the entire 3rd Floor searching for a liquor shop. Ask the information desk for help or enter the duty free shops that have cigarette displays from the outside.

This Yamazaki 18 Airport Limited Edition is priced at ¥50,000 ($400USD). A bit steep but this definitely makes a great gift. Also if you have a hard time finding the Yamazaki 18 elsewhere and desperately want one then this is a sure way to get it.

Yamazaki 18 Years Whisky Tasting Notes
Color: deep amber
Nose: raisin, apricot, cafe au lait, Mizunara (Japanese oak)
Palate: blackberries, strawberry jam, dark chocolate
Finish: long, spicy smooth

2010 - ISC GOLD
2014 - ISC GOLD

SWSC = San Francisco World Spirits Competition
IWSC = International Wine & Spirit Competition
ISC = International Spirits Challenge

Additional stills brought into Yamazaki to supply the growing demand

Cherishing Shinjiro Torii’s dream as we take the art of crafting whisky into the future

Suntory’s high-quality whisky has not only been satisfying the Japanese palate, but also been gaining global recognition as Japanese whisky. In an effort to create even more distinctive whiskies for the future, we built additional stills at the Yamazaki distillery in 2013, followed by the Hakushu distillery the following year. We will continue to craft whisky in a way that stays true to the original dream of our founder Shinjiro Torii, respecting the time-honored skills of our craftsmen while taking up new challenges with a view to the distant future-ten, twenty, even fifty years down the road.

Multiple pot stills line up parallel at the Yamazaki Distillery

A new addition to the Distillery

"Suntory Whisky. Achieved by the fusion of Japan’s abundant nature and craftsmanship."