Torii became the first master blender for Yamazaki, which started distilling in 1924 and released its first product – Suntory Whisky ‘Shirofuda’, or Suntory Whisky ‘White Label’ – in 1929. Despite being the first authentic Japanese whisky, the product was not well received in its home market due to a consumer taste for more subtle flavours than those in traditional Scotch whiskies. Suntory found domestic success in Shinjiro Torii 1937 with the launch of Kakubin, which would later become one of the world’s best- selling Japanese whiskies.
Yamazaki expanded Suntory’s whisky offering during the 1940s and the 1950s, but the next big change for the distillery came in 1961, when Torii’s son, Keizo Saji, became Suntory’s second president and Yamazaki’s second master blender. He oversaw the build of the Hakushu and Chita distilleries in the 1970s, paving the way for more experimental blends. Until the 1980s, whisky made at Yamazaki was bottled as Suntory blends, but Saji pioneered the distillery’s move into single malt whisky in 1984, with the launch of Suntory Single Malt Whisky Yamazaki. This was followed by Yamazaki 18 Years Old in 1992.
According to Motoyama, the 1980s was one of the most important decades in the history of Yamazaki. “We take great pride in our innovative craftsmanship and the large variety of malt whiskies produced at Yamazaki Distillery, a rarity in the world of whiskies,” he says. “One example of our innovative spirit would be the aggressive investments conducted in the late 1980s to allow for greater and more various malt whisky production at Yamazaki Distillery.” Completed in 1989, this development allowed Yamazaki to create a variety of malt whisky styles using multiple stills designs.
Earlier this year Beam-Suntory’s Yamazaki distillery released Yamazaki 55 year old with only 100 bottles being made available for around $27,550 USD each for only Japan market.
Yamazaki 55 Years Old (46% ABV) was distilled in the 1960s and is limited to 100 bottles. It was matured in a Japanese mizunara oak cask in 1960, and transferred into a white oak cask in 1964.
First that ever been sold on auction was on Bonhams the expression is the oldest Japanese whisky to date and smashed its pre-sale estimate of HK$580,000-HK$780,000 (US$74,834-US$100,640).
Yamazaki 55 year old went for a stunning price of HK$6.2 million (US$795,000) and set a new record for the most expensive japanese whisky ever.
Daniel Lam, director of wine and whisky, Asia, said: “The stunning price sets a new milestone for the market of Japanese whisky, testament to collectors’ desire and determination to acquire the very best the market has to offer.