Suntory Whisky Toasts 100 Pioneering Years With The Yamazaki & Hakushu Limited Editions

Suntory Whisky Toasts 100 Pioneering Years With The Yamazaki & Hakushu Limited Editions

Randy Lai
Randy Lai


No matter the precise criteria you use to adjudge excellence – whether it’s rarity, quality, or a balance of critical/commercial appeal – Suntory Whisky is a name that reliably lives up to the scrutiny.

The award-winning beverage behemoth behind Hakushu, Yamazaki, and Chita – three of the most revered distilleries in Japan (maybe even the entire world) – it’s never been in the nature of the company; and those who’ve steered it through a century of progress, to toot their own horns.

That ingrained sense of humility is a large part of what makes the House of Suntory’s 100th anniversary so significant: an opportunity for reflection – rather than self-congratulation – bringing with it diverse facets of education, cultural programming and, last but not least, an appreciation for world-class whisky.

RELATED: Suntory & Keanu Reeves Reunite For The Japanese Whisky Maker’s 100th Anniversary

Pictured (left to right): the Yamazaki 18 YO Mizunara and Hakushu 18 YO Peated Malt limited editions which have been bottled for Suntory’s 100th anniversary.

On top of localised activations and the promotion of creative partnerships with notable individuals like Sofia Coppola, the heart of Suntory’s celebration this year is all about spirit – mature, single malt and finite in nature, to be precise.

Timed for a July release right before the Hakushu and Yamazaki distilleries reopen (both have been closed to the public, as part of an unprecedented US$77 million renovation, for the last few months) here’s everything we know about Suntory’s centennial limited editions – on Aussie store shelves starting this month, and sure to be snapped up in the blink of an eye:

Hakushu 18 Peated Malt

Suntory Whiskey

Hailing from the youngest of the three historic Suntory Whisky distilleries, the eponymous ‘Hakushu’ 18 Peated Malt is a bottling of intense freshness and complexity; mirroring the pristine mountainside habitat of Mount Kaikoma in central Japan.

Founded in 1973 by legendary Suntory Chairman Keizo Saji (who also moonlighted as a whisky blender of prodigious talent for the company) Hakushu has always had an unrivalled connection to peat – the pungent vegetal stuff of bogs and marshland, from which whisky makers conjure smoke into their spirit.

In stark contrast to what dram lovers can expect with Scottish whiskies from Islay or the famed Isle of Skye however; this limited edition bottling works peat into the conversation with great finesse and subtlety – bringing a fresh perspective to the (traditionally stodgy) world of whisky that tastes of iodine, charcuterie or, in extreme cases, even a burning tie fire.

Take a look at some of the more primary tasting notes we’ve extracted below:

SageSmokey herbsSmoke
Green appleGrapefruitCitrus
PineappleAcacia honeyRRP $3,399

Softened with mountain spring water that trickles through primordial rock embankments all around the distillery, this peated expression of Hakushu’s mature-age whisky feels like a distant but evolved relative of the classic 12-year-old expression.

Thanks to some very expert blending (overseen by Suntory Master Blender Shinji Fukuyo) the Hakushu 18 ‘Peated Malt’ channels a wisp, rather than lungful, of peat smoke. An effective background player, it is used to enhance the intensity of a mature single malt that otherwise offers fresh, herbaceous, extremely balanced drinking.

Pictured: Shinji Fukuyo, Suntory’s Chief Blender, who was instrumental to achieving the unique “Japanese smoky” character of the Hakushu 18YO centennial release.

Early on, piquant top notes of ripe green apple and tepache unfurl in the glass; before giving way to intermingling layers of grapefruit, smoky herbs and a dab of floral Acacia honey. In line with the signature Hakushu style, the finish is clean and well-rounded – vaguely reminiscent of the 12, yet with the unmistakable lengthiness that only time can bring.

Yamazaki 18 Mizunara

Suntory Whiskey

In contrast to Hakushu, the team at Yamazaki – inarguably, Suntory’s most world-renowned whisky label – chose to build their special centennial release around the crucial whisky-making process of maturation.

This in turn inspired the creation of Yamazaki 18 ‘Mizunara’: so-called because it is aged exclusively in barrels coopered out of the eponymous Japanese oak that has captivated Suntory blenders since the mid-20th century.

A wood variety that’s difficult to work with and – if one is not careful – domineering, Mizunara imparts flavours of peach, incense, and shaved coconut when it is harnessed properly. Maturing whisky in barrels made exclusively out of this stuff – without the tempering influence of sherry or Bourbon casks – comes with a steep learning curve, and it’s here that Suntory’s world-class expertise in the realm of blending comes to the fore:

Dark cherrySpiceClove

Despite mizunara’s infamously overbearing tendencies, the whisky-makers at Suntory were able to craft the precise medley of barrels that unlock the “unique Japanese character” of the Yamazaki bottling.

“[Featuring] a rich texture created from a long aging process,” says Shinji Fukuyo, “I believe this whisky embodies our founding family’s spirit to the pursuit of quality”.

In many ways, by that token, the ultimate embodiment of Suntory’s flagship single malt whisky; the Yamazaki 18 ‘Mizunara’ is an elegant, finely detailed drop – in the preferred style of the Japanese domestic market.

Bottled at 48% ABV – brand reps note Suntory will only be releasing limited units of the stuff – this 18YO expression fills the glass with the scent of ripe peach and dark cherries. A little grated nutmeg hums along just below the surface – indicative of just how much aromatic complexity can be wrung from a few Mizunara barrels.

Pictured: As Chief Blender at Suntory, Shinji Fukuyo is responsible for ensuring Yamazaki’s latest Mizunara 18 is fully integrated with the rich, fruit-forward style that is a signature of the distillery.

On the palate, subtly spiced notes of clove and coconut unfurl; lengthening gradually into a dry, warm finish bearing traces of sandalwood and jinko (native agarwood) – all unmistakable by-products of cask-ageing in Mizunara. Irreplicable and distinctive, it’s evident why successive generations at Suntory, of both blender and distiller, have been so enamored with this stuff’s potential.

Odds are that’ll still be the case in 100 years. We certainly hope so.

This article is sponsored by Suntory Whisky. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Boss Hunting.

Randy Lai
Following 6 years in the trenches covering consumer luxury across East Asia, Randy joins Boss Hunting as the team's Commercial Editor. His work has been featured in A Collected Man, M.J. Bale, Soho Home, and the BurdaLuxury portfolio of lifestyle media titles. An ardent watch enthusiast, boozehound and sometimes-menswear dork, drop Randy a line at [email protected].



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