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Thread: Suntory Whisky

  1. #1
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    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, 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?

    Yours truly,
    Dave Morefield

  2. #2
    Mr. Anal Retentive Bourbon Drinker
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    Re: Suntory Whisky

    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"

  3. #3
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    Re: Suntory Whisky

    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.

    I must keep in mind that beggars can't be choosers.

    Yours truly,
    Dave Morefield

  4. #4
    Bourbonian of the Year 2002 and Guru
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    Re: Suntory Whisky

    Suntory is scotch-like. Most Japanese whiskies are intended to duplicate scotch, but a few try to copy bourbon.

  5. #5
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    Re: Suntory Whisky

    Chuck,

    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?

    Yours truly,
    Dave Morefield

  6. #6
    Connoisseur
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    Re: Suntory Whisky

    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.


  7. #7
    Bourbonian of the Year 2002 and Guru
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    Re: Suntory Whisky

    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.

  8. #8
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    Re: Suntory Whisky

    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.

    Mark

  9. #9
    Enthusiast
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    Re: Suntory Whisky

    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.

    Tim Dellinger

  10. #10
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    Re: Suntory Whisky

    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.

    David

 

 

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