One thing we had on our wish list of things to see before we came to Japan was the Yamazaki Distillery. With Cara and I both being bartenders, we had both heard of Yamazaki back in Australia so we were looking forward to going to the distillery where this famous Japanese whisky was founded.
The Yamazaki Distillery is located just out of Osaka on the way to Kyoto. Shinjiro Torii founded it in 1923. Shinjiro saw this area of Japan as a “utopia” for making whisky. The rolling hills and fresh water springs in the area provided the perfect damp climate for distillation. To this day, Yamazaki whisky still uses the fresh water located in a nearby spring to make its whisky. Another main factor for Yamazaki being such a unique whisky is it’s aging process. After the spirit has been double distilled in ‘pot-stills’ it is aged in carefully selected pure oak casks. The whisky is then aged for long periods of time giving the spirit a smoky, rich and mellow flavor, which is unique to Yamazaki.
Yamazaki whisky had become a huge success in Japan. In 1973 (the 50th anniversary of Yamazaki), a second distillery was built, where they started to produce Hakushu single malt whisky. The whisky was made using different pot-stills and sourced water from different springs in the area. Hakushu is also aged in different sized barrels, which affects the amount of oak flavor that is infused into the whisky. Hakushu was made with the aim to bring new life to the Japanese whisky market.
Walking through this distillery you really get a sense of history. It seemed like the whisky represented so much more than just a drink. The whisky is said to represent the soul of Japan. The people at Yamazaki certainly aim for perfection. The master craftsmen at Yamazaki carefully pick every little ingredient that is used to make the whisky. We had the pleasure of tasting the many different types of whisky at the end of the tour. After now understanding the complexities of Yamazaki, we were able to appreciate the drink so much more.
The Yamazaki distillery was definitely worth the visit. We learnt a lot and had a great time tasting the wide variety of whisky that Yamazaki has to offer.