The Charm of Hokuto (3) : Suntory Hakushu Distillery

The history of Suntory


Unbenannt-2Shinjiro Torii (1879-1962), a lover of wine and scotch whiskey had a vision to establish the production of those beverages in Japan as well.

In February 1899 he set up his own business called “Torii Shoten” and started the production and sale of wine. His concept was to create western-style liquors that would match Japanese standards.

 

 

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Eight years later, the “Akadama Port Wine” was launched with big success and acted as the foundation stone of Suntory. In 1922, the wine was promoted by the first nude-poster in Japan featuring model Emiko Matsushima, which even ranked first place during the World's Poster Contest held in Germany.

 

 

 

 

Due to this positive feedback he started to turn his dream of creating original Japanese whisky into reality and invested all his assets to build the first whisky distillery in Japan.
The first malt whisky distillery called Yamazaki, opened in 1923 between Osaka and Kyoto, an area with the most clean water resources in Japan. The Katsura -, Uji - and Kizu river confluence created a misty climate, as well as especially soft water. The variety of temperatures and humidity in this area offer the perfect conditions for the characteristic “Suntory barrel aging” process.

In April 1929 the first Japanese whisky “Suntory Shirofuda (white label)” was launched, but unfortunately flopped. The name “Suntory” was introduced together with the first product and combines the meaning of Akadama (Port Wine) which means red ball and resembles the “sun”, as well as the surname “Torii”.

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Finally, in 1937 the “Suntory Whisky Kakubin (square bottle)” led to success and is to date the top-selling whisky in the whole country.

 

 

 

Suntory Hakushu Distillery


In lieu of the 50th anniversary of Japanese whisky in 1973, the Hakushu Distillery was established. The distillery is located on the foothills of Mt. Kaikomagatake in Japan’s Southern Alps. Fresh and clear water flowing through a rich green environment offers the best conditions for whisky production.

The Hakushu Distillery is open for guided group tours where you have access to the historical museum, the distillery, the whisky aging area and the souvenir shop. The tour provides also an exclusive whisky tasting experience.

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The museum offers language guides in English, French and Chinese. The observation deck on top of the museum provides a beautiful view into Japan´s Southern Alps and its rich green forest.

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After leaving the museum, a short walk leads you to the distillery which gives you a peek into the process of the whisky production.

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Parts of the malting and mashing tank area, the fermentation area and the distillation area are open for curious visitors.

After leaving the distillery, a shuttle bus will bring you to the whisky aging building which is home to hundreds of barrels of different production years. The strong aroma of whiskey fills the whole room and a few minutes are necessary to get used to the strong smell.

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The light red whisky on the left side was produced 4 years ago and the one on the right side is already 12 years old. Within one year the whisky decreases by 1-2% (known as the "angels' share") and the color turns darker.

We went back to the main building for the tasting session. Three types of whiskies were prepared in front of each seat.

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Each of them was different in taste and color. The highlight was to create a Highball, a mix of whisky, sparkling water, a lot of ice, and some mint.

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Since the beginning of the 1970´s, mixing whisky with water got very popular, since it matches the traditional Japanese dishes very well.

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The flagship product of the Hakushu distillery, the Hakushu Single Malt Whisky in its green bottle, symbolizes the rich green environment of the area.

The souvenir shop offers a lot of limited products, like special designed glasses, pens and even snacks.

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Suntory is not only selling alcoholic beverages; soft drinks, water and even flowers or health products are in the range of products.

 

Information

Guided Tour (distillery, whisky aging area, the souvenir shop, tasting experience)
Hours: Weekday 10:30/11:30/12:30/13:30/14:30; Holiday 10:30, 11:30, 12:30, 13:30, 14:30
A reservation is necessary: Telephone 0551-35-2211 (9:30-16:30); Online LINK
Age limit: 20~
Fee: 1,000 yen (tax included)

Historical Museum and souvenir shop
Hours: 9:30-10:30, 10:30-11:30, 11:30-12:30. 12:30-13:30, 13:30-14:30, 14:30-15:30, 15:30-16:00 (16:00-17:00)
A reservation is necessary: Telephone 0551-35-2211 (9:30-16:30); Online LINK
Fee: free

Access: About 10 minutes by taxi from Kobuchizawa Station (JR Chuo Line)
Address: 2913-1 Torihara, Hakushu-cho, Hokuto-shi, 408-0316 Yamanashi
URL: http://whisky.suntory.com/

Read the rest of the series:
The Charm of Hokuto (1) : Oasis of the Highlands
The Charm of Hokuto (2) : Hirayama Ikuo Silk Road Museum
The Charm of Hokuto (4) : Inn Blue in Green
The Charm of Hokuto (5): Top 5 Photogenic Nature Spots
The Charm of Hokuto (6): Moegi no Mura
Restaurant Review: Soba Restaurant Sanbuichi

Ninja ID: nene16







WATTENTION WRITER PROFILE




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Tabea Greuner
Living and working in Japan since 2015. Always excited about discovering new places. Passion for photography, nature-lover & Japanese fashion expert. MORE ARTICLES BY THIS WRITERABOUT WATTENTION NINJA



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