Yamazaki Single Malt Whisky logo with Japanese characters.

Suntory Yamazaki Distillery

  • Osaka, Japan
  • International Spirits Challenge Awards, World Whiskies Awards, San Francisco World Spirits Competition:
  • http://www.suntory.co.jp/factory/yamazaki/
Phone Number
  • +81759621423
  • 5 Chome-2-1 Yamazaki, Shimamoto, Mishima District, Osaka 618-0001, Japan

Suntory Yamazaki Distillery among lush greenery.

History of Suntory Yamazaki Distillery

The Suntory Yamazaki Distillery, a renowned whisky production facility in Japan, stands as a testament to the rich history and evolution of Japanese whisky. Established in the early 20th century, it has played a pivotal role in shaping the landscape of the whisky industry in Japan.

Founding and Early Years

The Suntory Yamazaki Distillery was founded in 1923 by Shinjiro Torii, a visionary entrepreneur with a passion for whisky. Torii chose the Yamazaki area, located on the outskirts of Kyoto, for its excellent water quality and diverse climate, which are ideal for whisky production. The distillery’s establishment marked the beginning of whisky production in Japan, a significant departure from the country’s traditional focus on sake and other local spirits.

Initial Challenges and Growth

In its initial years, the distillery faced numerous challenges. The Japanese palate was accustomed to lighter spirits, and the robust flavours of whisky were not immediately embraced. However, Torii persisted, focusing on quality and craftsmanship. Over time, the Yamazaki Distillery gained recognition for its unique style, blending traditional Scottish techniques with a distinctly Japanese approach.

Expansion and Innovation

Through the mid-20th century, the distillery expanded its operations, innovating in the process of whisky-making. It began experimenting with different types of oak for casks, and introduced a variety of still shapes and sizes, which allowed for a diverse range of flavour profiles. These innovations contributed to the distinct character of Yamazaki whiskies.

Global Recognition

Entering the 21st century, the Suntory Yamazaki Distillery gained significant international acclaim. Its whiskies have won numerous awards and have been recognised for their quality and distinctiveness. This global recognition has not only elevated the status of Yamazaki but also of Japanese whisky as a whole on the world stage.

Current Status and Future Outlook

Today, the Yamazaki Distillery continues to thrive, with a commitment to quality and innovation. It attracts thousands of visitors annually, offering tours and tastings. The distillery has also been focusing on sustainability, adapting its processes to be more environmentally friendly. Looking ahead, the Yamazaki Distillery is poised to maintain its position as a leader in the world of whisky, continuing to blend tradition with innovation.

The Suntory Yamazaki Distillery’s journey from a pioneering establishment in the Japanese whisky industry to a globally recognised brand reflects a remarkable story of vision, resilience, and innovation. It stands not just as a producer of fine whisky, but as a symbol of the rich cultural heritage and craftsmanship of Japan.

Awards Won by Suntory Yamazaki Distillery

  1. International Spirits Challenge Awards:
    • Double Gold: Hibiki 21 Years Old, Yamazaki 18 Years Old.
    • Gold Medals: Various including Yamazaki Single Malt 12 Year Old, 18 Year Old, 25 Year Old; Mizunara 2020 Edition; Spanish Oak 2020 Edition; Bordeaux Wine Cask 2020 Edition​​.
  2. World Whiskies Awards:
    • World’s Best Single Malt Whisky: Hakushu 25 Years Old.
    • World’s Best Blended Whisky: Hibiki 21 Years Old (in multiple years)​​.
  3. San Francisco World Spirits Competition:
    • Best in Show Other Whisky Category & Double Gold Medal: Yamazaki 18 Years Old.
    • Double Gold Medal: Yamazaki 25 Years Old, Hakushu 18 Years Old​​.
  4. Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible:
    • World Whisky of the Year (2015): Yamazaki Single Malt Sherry Cask 2013​​.
  5. Special Recognitions:
    • Producer of the Year (Japanese Whisky Category): Suntory Spirits Ltd. at the International Spirits Challenge.
    • Supreme Champion Spirit: Yamazaki 25 Years Old at the International Spirits Challenge 2023​​.

Suntory Yamazaki Distillery Tour Information and Experience

Visiting the Suntory Yamazaki Distillery offers a unique and immersive experience into the world of Japanese whisky. The tour provides a comprehensive insight into the distillery’s history, the whisky-making process, and the artistry behind one of Japan’s most celebrated spirits.

Arrival and Welcome

Upon arrival, visitors are greeted by the picturesque setting of the distillery, nestled amidst the lush, mountainous landscape near Kyoto. The welcoming atmosphere is indicative of the traditional Japanese hospitality for which the country is known.

Guided Tour

The guided tour of the Suntory Yamazaki Distillery is a highlight, offering an in-depth look at the distilling process. It typically starts with a brief history of the distillery and its founder, Shinjiro Torii. Visitors are then taken through various stages of whisky production, from mashing and fermentation to distillation and aging.

Distillery Features

Key features of the tour include:

  1. Mash Tuns and Fermentation Tanks: Visitors see the large stainless steel vessels where the initial stages of whisky production take place.
  2. Distillation Area: The copper pot stills, essential for distillation, are a central point of interest. Their unique shapes and sizes contribute to the flavour profile of Yamazaki whiskies.
  3. Aging Warehouses: The tour showcases the oak casks where whisky matures, highlighting the importance of wood types and aging conditions.

Tasting Experience

A highlight of the tour is the tasting session. Here, visitors have the opportunity to sample various expressions of Yamazaki whisky. This experience is not only enjoyable but also educational, as it provides insights into the nuances of flavour and aroma unique to each whisky.

Whisky Museum and Gift Shop

The tour often concludes with a visit to the Whisky Museum, which displays an array of historical artefacts and provides further information on the history of Japanese whisky. The gift shop offers a range of Yamazaki whiskies, including some distillery-exclusive bottlings, allowing visitors to take a piece of their experience home.

Additional Facilities

The distillery also features a whisky bar and a lounge, where guests can relax and enjoy a broader range of whiskies. For those interested in a more detailed exploration, specialised tasting sessions and masterclasses are sometimes available.

Practical Information

  • Booking: It is advisable to book the tour in advance due to high demand.
  • Language: Tours are offered in both Japanese and English.
  • Duration: The standard tour typically lasts about an hour, with additional time for tasting.
  • Accessibility: The distillery is accessible by public transport from Kyoto and Osaka.

Flask & Barrel Review of Suntory Yamazaki Distillery

The setting of the distillery is simply stunning. Nestled near Kyoto, with those beautiful mountains around, it’s like stepping into a postcard. The moment I stepped in, I knew I was in for a treat.

The tour itself was top-notch. The guides knew their stuff and were really friendly, walking us through the entire whisky-making process. From the mash tuns to those shiny copper pot stills, it was fascinating to see how my favourite drink comes to life. And those aging warehouses? Just wow! The aroma of whisky in the air was enough to make any enthusiast’s day.

Now, let’s talk about the tasting session – easily the highlight for me. Getting to sample the various Yamazaki expressions was a dream. Each had its own character, and those subtle flavour notes were a delight. It’s clear why Yamazaki has such a stellar reputation.

The Whisky Museum and the gift shop were a nice touch too. I picked up a bottle that’s only available at the distillery, which is pretty cool for a collector like me.

If I had to nitpick, I’d say the tour felt a tad rushed. I would’ve loved to spend more time savouring the tasting session. And maybe a bit more on the history of Japanese whisky would’ve been nice. But these are minor points in an otherwise splendid experience.

What To Do Nearby Suntory Yamazaki Distillery

Yoshiminedera: This is a beautiful temple located in the western ward of Nishikyō-ku, in Kyoto. It offers a serene environment with stunning views. The temple is approximately 6 km away from the distillery.

Oyamazaki Villa Art Museum: This art museum, housed in a Taisho Era building, features a Tadao Ando-designed annex and original Monet paintings. It provides a peaceful retreat for art lovers.

Sewari Zutsumi Cherry Blossoms: For a lovely outdoor experience, especially during cherry blossom season, this 1.4 km stretch of cherry trees in Yawata-shi is one of the best places in Kyoto for cherry blossom viewing.

Frequently Asked Questions

What restaurants are near Suntory Yamazaki Distillery?

Relish食堂: Known for its Japanese cuisine, Kagiu is located about 0.2 miles from the distillery. It’s especially praised for its udon and tempura. The address is Japan, 〒618-0071 Kyoto, Otokuni District, Oyamazaki, Kagamiden−20-14 1F. You can call them at +818025224468 for reservation.

Restaurant TagamiYou can contact them at +81759515081 and their address is Ryuko-53-1 Oyamazaki, Otokuni District, Kyoto 618-0071, Japan.

Cafe Tabitabi: Approximately 0.3 miles from the distillery, this cafe is a great spot for a quick lunch and has been highly reviewed by visitors. You can contact them at +81759579180 and their address is Nishitani-4-6 Oyamazaki, Otokuni District, Kyoto 618-0071, Japan.

What hotels are near Suntory Yamazaki Distillery?

Hotel Anteroom Kyoto: Located 7.5 miles from the distillery, it is known for its stylish design and excellent breakfast buffet. The hotel provides a blend of artistic decor and modern comforts. Their address is 7 Aketacho Higashikujo, Minami-ku, Kyoto 601-8044, Kyoto Prefecture

Green Rich Hotel Kyoto Eki Minami: Situated 7.6 miles from the distillery, this hotel is praised for its cleanliness and convenient location, offering comfortable accommodations for visitors. Their address is 3 Higashikujo Shimotonodacho, Minami-ku, Kyoto 601-8047, Kyoto Prefecture

Hotel M’s Est Kyoto Station South: Approximately 7.8 miles from the distillery, this hotel offers compact but well-organized rooms and is located near the Kyoto Station, making it a practical choice for travelers. Their address is 7 Higashikujo Kitakarasumacho, Minami-Ku, Kyoto 601-8017, Kyoto Prefecture