Barrels in Yamazaki distillery
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Yamazaki distillery (Japanese: 山崎蒸溜所 Hepburn: Yamazaki jōryūsho?) is a Japanese whisky distillery located in Shimamoto, Osaka Prefecture, Japan. Opened in 1923, and owned by Suntory, it was Japan's first commercial whisky distillery. Seven thousand bottles of unblended malt whisky are on display in its "Whisky Library".
In 1923, Shinjiro Torii, the founder of Suntory, built Japan’s first malt whisky distillery in the Vale of Yamazaki.
The distillery's location on the outskirts of Japan’s ancient capital of Kyoto offered access to a good water supply, diversity of climate and high humidity—a desirable environment for the production and maturation of whisky.
Suntory Yamazaki has the largest market share for single malt whisky in Japan. It is currently exported to more than 10 countries. However, the amount of export to some of these countries is very little. But most of the countries import a very large quantity. The United States is the biggest importer accounting for nearly 60% of exports, with China, England, and Indonesia as the next biggest importers in order.
If you want to see the distillery firsthand and try the oldest whisky you should take a plant tour which offers an exciting insight into all areas of whisky making process. Make sure to book in advance one of "the guided tour" of the Yamazaki distillery for free. The tour is conducted in Japanese only but if you don't understand Japanese you can get audio phones available for non-native speakers which describes each step of the distillation process. You simply hold up the device like a big phone and listen along to the tour. Inside the Yamazaki ageing warehouse, tens of thousands of casks quietly wait for maturation producing the distinctive aroma and the amber-like colour of whiskey. Some casks have superior whiskey maturing for over 50 years. The Yamazaki distillery uses casks of different shapes, sizes, and varieties of oak, including Japanese oak (Mizunara) mainly grown in a large forests of Hokkaido. It's a very special type of cask as it has the flavour reminiscent of sandalwood and aloeswood. This unique flavour has been gaining the special attention from around the world.
Styles of whisky
There are three primary variants of Yamazaki whisky:
- Yamazaki Single Malt 12-Year-Old whisky
- Yamazaki Single Malt 18-Year-Old whisky
- Yamazaki Single Malt 25-Year-Old whisky
There are also other offerings outside of the US (which are the 12yr, 18yr, and 1984 which is limited to 300/2500 bottles), such as a 10-, 25-, 35- and a 50-year-old. Some offerings are dated such as 1980, 1984, 1993, and lastly Puncheon and sherry offerings.
Spirit ratings organizations, such as the Beverage Testing Institute and the San Francisco World Spirits Competitions, have reacted favorably to Yamazaki's offerings. Most notably, the 18-Year has earned six consecutive double gold medals at the San Francisco Spirits Competitions between 2008 and 2013. Ratings aggregator Proof66.com places the Yamazaki 18-Year in the 97th percentile among its rated whiskies.
Yamazaki 25 Year Old was awarded "Best Japanese Single Malt" at the 2013 World Whisky Awards. Jim Murray's Whisky Bible 2015 awarded Yamazaki Single Malt Sherry Cask 2013 the title of World Whisky of the Year.
- "Yamazaki 25 Year Old wins Best Japanese Single Malt". Retrieved 2013-05-10.
- Hyslop, Leah (3 November 2014). "Scotland loses out as Japanese whisky named best in the world". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 11 November 2014.