YAMAZAKI: Suntory Yamazaki Distillery
Suntory Yamazaki Distillery
Read about the full itinerary: Japan Trip 2016: 10D9N Autumn in Kyoto, Osaka, Nara & Arima
Yamazaki is the birthplace of Japanese whisky, which is also the place where Suntory Yamazaki Distillery located. As a whisky lover, this is one of the must do while we were in Kyoto – a pit stop in Yamazaki. We planned and made our reservation very early, few months before our trip in order to secure ourselves a seat to join and follow the tour. Yep, reservation is highly recommended or else you may not be able to follow their distillery tour and whisky tasting. The tour is around 80 minutes at a fee of ¥ 1,000
After settling with the entrance fee, we rushed into the hall to join the other members (coz we were late by minutes, phew). This guided tour is fully in Japanese. For foreigner, there will be the audio guide in English, French and Chinese.
The whisky making process is started with mashing process, by germinating and drying carefully the selected two-rowed barley to produce malt. It is then finely ground and mixed with water in a mash run where the enzymes break down the starch into sugar. It is then filtered to obtain the clear wort. We were told that the water is the key factor in determining the quality of the whisky. Gifted with the lush natural setting over here, Yamazaki is praised for its pristine water.
The wort is transferred to a wash back and yeast is added into it. Fermentation process is then started, converting the wort into alcohol and carbon dioxide. Yeast selection is also very important where it will yield the desired and distinctive flavours.
The wash produced during the fermentation will transferred to pot stills for distillation process, two rounds to produce “new make”. Suntory has a variety of pot stills in different shapes and sizes depend on the distinctive flavours they want their whiskies to be. It’s amazing seeing the distillery has so many types of pot stills. When I first entered to this area, I thought I will get drunk by just inhaling. So so so aromatic!
In the aging process, the “new make” is placed in the casks. Every single detail (size, shape, material, storage location of the cask, climate) is being taken care of as it may cause the “new make” mature differently. It will be ended with the vatting and blending process to create the new products by combining component whiskies.
Cask for Japanese first whisky in 1924 is still here!!!
So tranquilizing. We took a minute to stop and inhale the fresh air here. This pure mountain water is used in whisky making process.
Moving on to the whisky tasting. We were served with 4 glasses of whisky namely White Oak Cask Malt, Wine Cask Malt and 2 Yamazaki Single Malt Whisky. We were taught with the colours, flavours, scent and finish during this session. Also, we were taught how to make the Highball using the last glass of whisky and this alcohol drink is what Japanese loves drinking in izakaya.
Now I know what makes this highball so delicious. Besides that whisky itself, the secret is the soda, made with the water source from this place! They have this Yamazaki Soda for at sold ¥108 per bottle. I wish I could transport some home but can’t coz that will be too heavy for my luggage.
Ok, now… Buy buy buy in the Souvenir Shop
We moved to the museum downstairs after getting some souvenirs. Do take note that reservation is required for the museum (FOC) now if you didn’t join the tour.
We went to the tasting counting to get what we wanna try. They offer about 70 varieties of whisky here and this is the place where you can find the unusual vintage component or raw whiskies and unblended whiskies.
Hibiki 21 Years Old and The Yamazaki 18 years old at ¥ 600 each. A bit too kiam for the Hibiki 30 Years Old and Yamazaki 25 years old, so we are all very regret now.
Suntory Yamazaki Distillery
Daily from 9.30am to 5pm
Closed during New Year’s holiday and plant shutdowns
Make Reservation here
From Kyoto, take the train from JR Kyoto Station to JR Yamazaki Station which takes about 15 minutes. It is about 10 minutes’ walk from JR Yamazaki Station.