Following on from the first release in Japan, this global release of Yamazaki 55 Year Old is a tribute to the 1960s, a period when the reins of distillation were passed from father to son and the name Suntory was first introduced to the world.
Yamazaki 55 Year Old is a single malt made from the careful combination of two whiskies: 1960-vintage spirit distilled under the watchful eye of distillery founder Shinjiro Torii and aged in a mizunara cask, and whisky filled into in white oak casks in 1964, the year his son, second generation master blender Keizo Saji succeeded him, and their company, Kotobukiya, was renamed Suntory.
To create this bottling, these casks of whisky were blended by the current, fifth, chief blender Shinji Fukuyo. His historic creation is housed in a bottle with a seal wrapped in handmade echizen washi paper and fastened with a kyo-kumihimo plaited cord. The bottle is presented in a black mizunara box, finished with fine suruga lacquer.
Due to the exceptionally limited nature of this release, we are inviting those who wish to purchase a bottle to register their interest.
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"Very old Scotch Whiskies gave me this impression of them being perfect Greek Sculptures with beautiful toned beauty. Instantly impressive as a piece of art. But the Yamazaki 55 is more like an old Buddhist statue. Calm and mysterious. It takes time to take in its inner beauty with the smell of Japanese incense and stripped old wood, like the Toshodaiji Temple in Nara."
Suntory want the world to know that each of their single malts comes to perfection at a different age and that great maturity is not the pinnacle of whisky. Some whiskies bloom early and some bloom later. For chief blender Shinji Fukuyo, the challenge was how best to showcase the late-blooming casks of 1964 whisky that form the core of this release, and ‘…to unveil a Yamazaki-ness not known before.’
Fukuyo, the fifth blender, worked with Shingo Torii, Suntory’s third master blender and grandson of Shinjiro Torii, to create this 55-year-old single malt. Rather than focus on creating a whisky without flaw, Fukuyo honoured the concept of wabi-sabi, whereby imperfections do not diminish but rather accentuate an object’s beauty.
Softly oaky at first, with sandalwood, tatami mats, saddle soap, antiques shops and fresh paper. Fruity notes of persimmon, peach brandy and orange oil follow, along with some very old Palo Cortado sherry.
Herbal initially, showing incense, hemp oil, sage, sarsaparilla, Assam tea, willow bark and bracken. Over time a creamy side emerges, bringing mango lassi and coconut ice cream that gives way to subdued fruitiness – clementine juice and some hallmark Yamazaki pineapple. Then there’s polished brass, leather-bound books, oil lamps, soot and a hint of peat.
Extremely long and pleasantly bitter with more black tea, Branca Menta, gentian root, dandelion greens and a little wisp of smoke. Very special indeed.
Yamazaki was founded in 1923 at the foot of Mount Tennozan in southern Kyoto. It was founded by Shinjiro Torii, who selected the site for its unique climate and access to very pure, soft water, and set out to make an exceptional and distinctly Japanese whisky. His first product, Suntory White Label released in 1929, was not an instant hit, but domestic success would come with the launch of Suntory Kakubin in 1937.
Torii’s son, Keizo Saji, suceeded him as Yamazaki’s second master blender in 1961. Saji would oversee the building of the Hakushu and Chita distilleries in the 1970s, but more importantly for Yamazaki he would spearhead the move into releasing single malts – as opposed to blended whiskies – in 1984, which paved the way for Yamazaki’s worldwide popularity today.