Shinjiro Torii - The Founder of Japanese Whisky

"I want to create a perfect whisky that reflects the nature of Japan and the spirit of Japanese craftsmanship." - Shinjiro Torii

The founder of Japanese whisky, Shinjiro Torii

Shinjiro Torii pictured inside the Yamazaki Whisky Museum.

The history of Japanese whisky-making began with the passion of our founder, Shinjiro Torii. His ream to create a perfect whisky that reflects the nature of Japan and the spirit of Japanese craftsmanship led Torii to embark on the difficult business of authentic domestic whisky-making that no one had ever attempted at the time.

The history of Suntory whisky and, consequently, the history of Japanese whisky were begun by the fearless challenge undertaken Torii, who embarked on whisky-making, after prevailing against the opposition he faced.

The birthplace of Japanese whisky-making, Yamazaki Distillery

With his unwavering preference for high-quality water and natural environment that are vital in whisky-making, Shinjiro Torii selected the land of Yamazaki, located at the foot of Mt. Tennozan in southwestern Kyoto, from among several candidate sites. The land had long been famous for its exquisite natural water, which is even mentioned in the Manyoshu, the oldest anthology of Japanese poetry.

In 1923, construction of Japan's first malt whisky distillery began. It was a significant first step for Torii in realizing his dream. In this way, Yamazaki became the birthplace of Japanese whisky-making, and the history of the distillery has been equivalent to the history of Japanese whisky.

In search of new whiskies, Hakushu Distillery

Shinjiro Torii surmounted countless obstacles to produce several high-quality whiskies, and strove to introduce and entrench whisky culture in Japan. Taking Torii's dream even further, Keizo Saji, the second president of the company, established Suntory's second distillery in 1973. The location selected was situated at the foot of Mt. Kaikomagatake in the Southern Japan Alps. Making of new types of whisky that vary from whiskies produced at the Yamazaki distillery has begun at the distillery, which is unique in the world, being located at high altitude in a rich natural environment with Hakushu's purest water.

Globally-recognized Suntory Whiskies

In 2003, the Yamazaki 12 years single malt whisky produced at the Yamazaki distillery became the first Japanese whisky to win the gold medal at the International Spirits Challenge (ISC) - the authoritative spirits competition in the world. Suntory continued to win several awards for its whiskies including the Hakushu 12 years single malt whisky. In 2010, Suntory became the first Japanese company to be awarded the title "Distiller of the Year" given to one distiller of a diverse range of high-quality products each year. Torii's long-cherished dream was finally realized in the homeland of whisky.

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