The Hakushu 12 Year Old


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In February 1899, Shinjiro Torii — the father of Japanese Whisky — opened a general store in Osaka, Japan that traded in imported wines. Within a decade, Torii began producing his own sweet grape wine called Akadama Port Wine, which became wildly popular throughout the country. Following the end of World War I, Torri — fascinated by whisky his entire life — decided to expand his business and began construction of the Yamazaki Distillery, Japan's first-ever whisky distillery.

Fifty years after the construction of the Yamazaki Distillery, Keizo Saji inherited his father's vision and began construction of Suntory's second distillery. Although inspired by traditional Scottish distilleries, both Torii and Saji envisioned a uniquely Japanese approach to distilling whisky. As a result, the Hakushu Distillery is situated amidst the deep forests of Mount Kaikomagatake in Japan's southern Alps, and enjoys a unique microclimate as a result of being surrounded by nearly 6,000 varieties of plants and thousand-year-old granite rocks.

The Hakushu 12 Year Old Japanese Single Malt Whisky is made exclusively from malted barley, which is milled and mashed with water sourced from the Ojira River and Jingu Rivers (the water has a unique softness and purity, made possible by its filtration through the granite rocks of the Japanese Alps). Once the grains have been mashed, they are fermented by a unique strain of yeast (Hakushu Distillery has thousands of unique strains in its arsenal) in wooden washbacks. Despite the additional cost and labor required, wooden washbacks as compared to stainless steel washbacks take advantage of the distillery's unique location by incorporating naturally occurring lactic acid bacteria and other microorganisms into the wash.

Following fermentation, the wash is distilled twice through Hakushu's copper-pot stills before the whisky is laid to rest in the distillery's warehouses. Once the whisky has aged for a minimum of twelve years, it is brought to proof with pure Japanese spring water. As a result of the whisky's slumber in Japan's deep forests, Hakushu 12 Year Old Japanese Single Malt Whisky has an herbal aroma, with hints of apples, pears and almonds. The palate has notes of pears, butter cookies and dark plums that are complemented by a subtle, smoky undertone. The finish is soft and pleasant, with a dry, lingering touch.

Hakushu 12 Year Old earned the Gold Medal at the International Wine and Spirits Competition, where it was named "Best in Class." In addition, it earned the Double Gold Medal at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition in 2013, and a score of 92 points from the Beverage Testing Institute.


Shinjiro Torii, founder of Suntory, envisioned a whisky filled with the essence of Japanese nature and handcrafted by artisans. Although initially inspired by traditional Scottish whisky, Torii envisioned a Japanese approach by choosing a terrain and climate completely different from those of Scotland. The region of Yamazaki on the outskirts of Kyoto is the birthplace of Japanese whisky. “Suntory Whisky embodies the harmony that exists between Japanese nature and Japanese people. This unique fusion establishes Suntory Whisky as an art form.”

 The water represents the spiritual inspiration for Suntory. The region of Yamazaki is origin to one of Japan’s purest waters. The temperature and humidity fluctuations of the four seasons in Japan enrich the aging process of Suntory Whisky. The changes in temperature greatly affect cask “breathing.” These forces of nature combine to breathe life into Suntory Whisky. 

Suntory produces a diverse array of malt and grain whiskies at its three distilleries. The original Suntory Yamazaki Distillery Is Japan’s first and oldest malt whisky distiller established in 1923. The diversity of this region’s temperature and humidity creates ideal conditions for cask aging, known as the signature “Suntory Maturation. The Suntory Hakushu Distillery was founded half a century after Yamazaki. It is without question one of the highest distilleries in the world, built amidst the forests of Mt. Kaikomagatake in the Japanese Southern Alps. In 1972, Keizo Saji, Suntory’s second Master Blender, built a distillery on the misty, calm shores of Chita Peninsula, dedicated to creating the highest quality of Japanese grain whisky. Through many years of research and innovation, the Chita Distillery’s grain whiskies have achieved an unrivaled sophistication and complexity – culminating in the Chita Single Grain Whisky.

Suntory had a starring role in Sofia Coppola’s Lost in Translation, in which Bill Murray films a commercial for the spirit, repeating the phrase “For relaxing times, make it Suntory time” over and over again!

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