View Full Version : Suntory Whisky
During my absence from home earlier today, my son, enroute from the airport to his home, dropped off a bottle of Suntory whisky, which he had brought back from his just-completed trip to Japan.
In addition to my fatherly disappointment at not being present to welcome his 6'4" frame back to the land of full-size living accomodations, I missed the opportunity to hear a description of the whisky. By now, he's undoubtedly sacked out, trying to get back to Sunday, never mind Pacific Standard Time. Rather than disturb him with a phone call, I resorted to a search of SB.com in the hope of learning about my gift. Nada.
Next I searched the web for "Suntory", only to find that most of the information that turned up was in Japanese. However, I did find the following page (http://www.suntory.com/company/JWhisky.html), which, while both charming and informative in an oblique way, told me nothing about what to expect when I open the bottle.
Can anyone give me a clue?
I have Jim Murray's 2004 Whiskey Bible. Suntory Old is described as a blended whiskey; I'm guessing it is a blended scotch whiskey. He rates it at an 89, which is very good. Comments include "subtle oak on the grain offers texture alongside the silky malt...A gem"
Thanks for the JM description.
Based on that, I'd bet my son sampled it and found it to his liking.
He knows I have a glass of Famous Grouse, JW Black, or Highland Park 12 y/o occasionally. Of course, if I'd only known that he was willing to lug a bottle half way around the world for Pops, I'd have given him a Turkey-laden shopping list. http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif
I must keep in mind that beggars can't be choosers.
Suntory is scotch-like. Most Japanese whiskies are intended to duplicate scotch, but a few try to copy bourbon.
In your opinion, will the Japanese distillers ever achieve in bourbon any semblance of the success that they have in other fields? Is the bourbonic equivalent of a Lexus auto, a Sony TV or a Yamaha euphonium in our future?
My guess would be that there are insufficient market forces to drive such a development, never mind the difficulty in matching the techology and raw materials that already exist in Kentucky.
Along those lines, do you know whether they use peat in making the scotch-like whisky? If so, where do they get it?
I think the market force is there -- a huge market for high proced whiskey. However, there is a 'cache' to the word "imported."
Remember, Kirin bought and owns Four Roses. That would be the best way for a Japanese firm to have good bourbon -- and they did.
Unlike Japanese consumer electronics, Japanese automobiles and many other products of Japanese industry, Japanese whiskey is entirely a domestic product. I don't know if Suntory or any other maker has ever attempted to export it. Perhaps they do in Asia, but not in Europe or the USA.
As I understand it, the Japanese became very enamoured of scotch and following the usual pattern of Japanese industry, determined to make it domestically. Unfortunately, no matter what they tried they just couldn't get it right. I assume they would have the same experience with bourbon.
Japan is a very large whiskey market for both domestic and imported products. Most of the domestic whiskies are scotch-style, but they do have a couple that are supposed to be more like bourbon and are positioned with bourbon-like names and imagery. It can be argued that the bourbon renaissance we are now enjoying was sparked by the rapid growth of the market for U.S. whiskey in Japan in the late 1980s.
I haven't seen the movie yet but the premise of "Lost in Translation" is that Bill Murray is an American movie star in Japan to do ads for Suntory whiskey.
After I saw "Lost in Translation" (which I really liked, but expect to learn more about Japanese/American cultural differences than about the whiskey itself), I looked for Suntory. I found it at a couple of the Liquor Barns in Louisville filed under Scotch. I haven't gotten around to sampling it yet, but I could do the virtuous thing and "take one for the team". (Oh the sacrifices I make!) I don't know if they started carrying Suntory after the movie craze or before.
BTW, one of my "whiskey geek" moments was revealing to my friends after the movie that I knew the brand Suntory and that it was a legit brand and not made up for the movie.
Don't underestimate the Japanese when it comes to outrageous
attempts to duplicate foreign phenomena on Japanese soil.
The example that springs to mind is the pub in Ireland that
was purchased by the Japanese, completely disassembled, and
every last bit shipped to Japan where it was re-assembled.
Whisk(e)y prices in Japan can get up to what we would
consider to be astronomical levels, which can justify
what we would consider astronomical investments.
I believe that Suntory imports either peat from Scotland
or peated barley from Scotland, but don't quote me on
that. If you're really curious, I think a search of
the malts-l archive will turn up the answer.
That said, I think that the enginnering and quality
control that go into Japanese cars, electronics, etc.
don't neccessarily carry over into areas that are
really more qualitative and cultural, and/or depend
on natural/climatological/etc. influences that are
poorly understood and thus defy duplication. Brute
force methods (like trying to duplicate fine wines
by duplicating their chemistry) have failed, and
those lessons have been learned. From what I've
read about Suntory (and I don't recall that much...)
they didn't really succeed in duploicating the spirits
that inspired them, but did end up creating some
distinctive spirits that are similar in style.
One of the better whiskies I have tried was a Japanese whisky from Nikka called Yoichi. It was from a single cask , 10 yrs. old, distilled in 1990 and bottled at 61.2%abv. Bourbon-like on the nose, some toffee on the palate and, in my opinion, quite stunning.
There is also a Suntory Pure Malt Whisky aged 12 years called "Yamazaki" that is very malty tasting and available in the US. Not outstanding but worth trying.
There are several other Japanese whiskies I have heard are worth seeking out but that are not available in the US as well as some that are only average. But I would not underestimate them on a whole.
I haven't bought any yet but it has been available for several years in Louisville.
I don't know if Suntory or any other maker has ever attempted to export it. Perhaps they do in Asia, but not in Europe or the USA.
Thatís not entirely correct. They do export their Whisky at least to Europe
As I understand it, the Japanese became very enamoured of scotch and following the usual pattern of Japanese industry, determined to make it domestically. Unfortunately, no matter what they tried they just couldn't get it right.
Underestimating the Japanese ability to produce whisky is unfortunately only all too common. In my opinion some of the finest Single Malts are actually produced by Nikka. Yoichi as a 10 year old is a superb dram. Actually among the pride of my collection is a Yoichi 20 years old at 52%. Itís quite expensive so Iím saving it for that special moment. I'll atach a pic.
Suntory had a booth at WhiskeyFest in Chicago this spring. They clearly were attempting to exploit the success of "Lost in Translation" to introduce Suntory whiskey to the U.S. I tasted some and found it pleasant enough, but not something I would be likely to buy.
As I understand it, the Japanese eventually gave up trying to duplicate scotch and settled on creating their own distinctive style of malt whiskey.
While you might argue that the Japanese have their own distinctive single malt style, in my view comparing that to scotch makes more sense then discussing wether scotch is better than burboun or vise versa, since you can't compare apples and pears. http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/wink.gif
Anyway it tastes great so what's the difference
Right, the point should be is it good, is it enjoyable, is it interesting, does it give good value for the money, and not "how does it compare to scotch"?
Well as I said I haven't tried this bottle yet. I have had a 10 year old previosly, which undoubtedly belonged among the finest single malts I have had the privilege to own. As for value for money that is a tough one. When I see posts on this forum talking about say Bookerís being too expensive at around $50 the price here in Denmark is around $100. I tried to obtain a bottle of George T. and found one guy who was able to get me 2 bottles at $220 a piece. I managed to find it in Germany for a ďmeagerĒ $130 a bottle. So you see if I tell you that the price for this Yoichi is $230 a bottle Ė I managed to obtain it for $115 though. But compared to local prices for scotch of the same quality I think I have made a hell of a deal. http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/hot.gif
These are the Japanese whiskies I own and I have tried them all. The small bottle labeled Pure Malt "White" is, according to several retail shops, a vatting of Japanese whiskey from Nikka and Scotch whisky from Bowmore. Nikka owns some or all of Morrison Bowmore Group which owns Bowmore, Glen Garioch, and Auchentoshen distileries. Thus there are three different Pure Malt releases, White, Black and Red, of which I have tried the first two. I would recommend both, especially the White if you like a pepper/peat hit in your whisky( or if you like Bowmore). Both are well balanced and the Black is probably the better of the two, but I love Islay malts so my pick is the White.
The Single Cask marked "10 years old" is simply one of the best whiskies I have tasted.
The Single Cask 1989 is extremely smokey and does not have a lot of balance, but is still very good and would stand up to lots of single malts.
The 20 year old has bourbony notes and a whole lot of other things going on. Everyone I have poured it for has loved it (as do I) but it does not fall in to a catagory of scotch that I can think of, except to remind me a bit of a older Ben Nevis I once tried, but that was some time ago.
Thatís a very fine collection of Japanese Whisky you got yourself there. http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/bowdown.gif http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/bowdown.gif
Very fine indeed, Thanks for sharing the pic Nokia. I like seeing various bottles from around the world. http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/toast.gif
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