Distillery tour to taste the charm of Japanese whisky “Yamazaki”!
Written by aki
Japanese whisky is attracting attention around the world.
Among them, the single malt whisky “Yamazaki (SUNTORY)” is still loved all over the world more than 30 years after its release.
This whisky is made at the Yamazaki Distillery in Osaka.
It was the first malt whisky distillery in Japan (i.e., the home of Japanese whisky), built in 1923.
They will celebrate their 100th anniversary next year.
Yamazaki is located on the border of Osaka and Kyoto prefectures.
This is where Suntory’s founder, Shinjiro Torii, arrived in search of a suitable location for the production of domestic whisky.
It has long been known as the “land of famous water” and is said to be the starting point of Japanese whisky making.
Factory tours at Suntory Yamazaki Distillery were suspended for about two years due to COVID-19, but finally reopened in May this year.
Reservations for popular factory tours are also hard to come by.
Miraculously, I was able to get a reservation for a paid tour of the Yamazaki Distillery, so I went there for the first time in several years.
That the tour is back on the road after a two-year hiatus, here are some pics of what it’s like!
The tour starts at the entrance of the Yamazaki distillery!
At first, visitors will learn about the production process of Yamazaki whisky using a miniature model.
As I moved to the tour location for each production process, we found the “distillation kiln” that had been in use since the beginning of the operation.
When I spoke to the staff, they told us that at that time they were using two distillation machines, but that they now have 16 distillation machines in operation.
I could tell that whisky is growing in popularity!
Yamazaki Whisky Production Process: Preparation
Inside the room where the whisky preparation tanks are located, the distinctive aroma of wort is in the air.
The raw material used is “barley malt”.Yamazaki germinates and dries a type of barley called “Nijo Barley”, which has a high starch content, to make malt.
The malted barley is put into the brewing tank, where it is mixed with Yamazaki’s famous water to produce the “wort”.
Yamazaki Whisky Production Process: Fermentation
The filtered “wort” is transferred to a fermentation tank and microbial yeast is added. The yeast’s action produces alcohol, resulting in “moromi” with an alcohol content of 7%.
At the Yamazaki distillery, they use two different types of fermentation tanks: a wooden vat fermenter and a stainless steel fermenter.
Yamazaki Whisky Production Process: Steaming slip
The “mash” produced by fermentation is distilled twice in a distillation kettle called a “pot still”.The result is “New Pot,” a clear, colorless, watery whisky with a high alcohol concentration.
It is at this stage that the aromatic framework of the whisky is formed.
Yamazaki Whisky Production Process: Storage and aging
This is the whisky “storage” area. I was overwhelmed by the barrels lined up in rows on both sides!
After distillation in the distillery, the original whisky is packed into casks and put into a long sleep in the cellar.
The cellar smells good, with the aroma of whisky in the air.
The alcohol content of whisky is lost in volume as it evaporates over the years of storage.
In Scotland, there is an old saying, “The share of the angels”.
It is said that the angels who taught the whisky making process tasted the whisky in return.
In the freshly distilled “new pot” stage, the whisky has a mere alcoholic aroma and no character.
However, after a long period of time in the cask, it develops a deep, amber-colored “flavor”.
The aroma and flavor of the same whisky can change in complex ways depending on the type of cask and where it is stored.
The barrels of whisky are marked with the “year of manufacture,” so finding and photographing your birth year is part of the fun.
I also found a whisky from my birth year “1990”!
Yamazaki Whisky Production Process: Blending
The finished whisky is blended by the master blender to produce the single malt whisky Yamazaki.
Finally, it was time for the whisky tasting that you have been waiting for.
The tour will take you through a natural setting to the tasting site.
The Yamazaki distillery is also characterized by its beautiful scenery.
On the tables above the tasting are a variety of whiskies and snacks that go well with whiskies.
By the way, if you drive a car or can’t drink whisky I heard that instead of a whisky tasting, you will receive a glass!
The tour will conclude with this tasting.
I could feel the different flavors of whisky depending on the type of maturing casks.
History of Whisky at the Yamazaki Whisky Museum
The museum attached to the building is free to visit.
The first photo shows Suntory Whisky Shirofuda, the first domestic whisky, released in 1929.
Whisky at that time did not suit Japanese tastes and had a poor reputation for being “smoky” and “burnt”!
Amazing! Amber-colored walls lined with thousands of bottles of whisky
A wide variety of whiskys and whiskies are lined up in a row, making it a popular spot for taking pictures.
Whisky tasting counter
Recommended for those who want to enjoy whisky more!
You can try a variety of whiskies at the tasting counter.
You can sample whisky for a fee (due to COVID-19, there is a rule that each person is limited to 3 drinks).
We were able to drink precious whisky.
Visit the gift store for a variety of original products to enjoy with whisky.
In the gift store, in addition to single malt whisky, there were glasses to expand the enjoyment of whisky and original “snacks”.There was also a selection of products only available here, such as barrel wood goods made from whisky barrels.
I bought a Yamazaki Distillery limited edition whisky and chocolates to go with the snacks as souvenirs.
I think this tour is enjoyable not only for those who like whisky, but also for those who do not like whisky but want to know about its history.
This time, the tour cost ¥1,000, but I was more than satisfied with the price.
They are now offering new distillery tours that you can enjoy online, such as the Suntory Whisky Remote Distillery Tour!
Finally, a little point about Yamazaki whisky.
The Yamazaki whisky label has a strong presence with its inked characters.
The character “Yamazaki” is usually written in Kanji as “山崎”.
However, on the label of this whisky, the Kanji for “崎” is “寿”.
This is a remnant of a store called “寿屋” before it became a company called Suntory.
Kanji, “寿,” means to celebrate.
The label is said to express “the feeling of celebrating the start of Japanese single malt whisky.
A deep history made in a place rich in nature, filled with dedication and passion The charm of Japanese whisky “Yamazaki”.
Please taste it.