Suntory has revealed how it plans to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the company’s whisky and thus 100th anniversary of Japanese whisky itself. Hakushu Distillery also celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. The plan includes some new products, special editions of existing products, but perhaps more importantly, investments and process changes at both distilleries that could eventually change the way they operate. Let’s take a look.
Let’s first talk about money. Suntory will spend 10 billion yen (~$77 million USD at today’s rate) this year to further invest in the Yamazaki and Hakushu Distilleries. They say the money is for further product quality improvement and value-adds for the distilleries.
What does that really mean?
Looking past the marketing mumbo-jumbo, that money will be spent on these kinds of things.
- The introduction of floor malting at both Yamazaki Distillery and Hakushu Distillery(!!)
- The addition of an electric heated pot still at the company’s small-scale research distillery housed within Yamazaki Distillery
- Introduction of a yeast culturing process at the Hakushu Distillery. The goal here is to culture yeasts in-house
- Hakushu Distillery was closed but will re-open to visitors in Fall 2023 with some kind of new experience. Details are wishy-washy but if I had to guess, it’s a new visitor center
Canned Hakushu Highball, 100th Anniversary labels
A canned Hakushu highball will drop on June 6 “in limited quantities.” It will cost 600 yen and weighs in at 9% abv at 350ml. I guess asking for a Yamazaki version would be a stretch, but it’s good to see Suntory has enough Hakushu NAS lying around that they’re able to put it in cans.
There are also 2023-limited edition label versions of Yamazaki NAS, Yamazaki 12, Hakushu NAS, and Hakushu 12 coming. These releases start mid-April. Let’s be clear though: the contents of these bottles should be the same as the standard editions. Just the label design is different.
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We’ve lived in Japan for 2 years now and still have never been able to find any of the popular whiskeys for anywhere near retail price. Our local grocery store had a sign up recently for Hibiki Harmony+Blender’s Choice and Yamazaki NAS, but they were sold out already and no idea if or when they will get more. I’ve never tried any of them either. Just sad that it’s easier to get them in California at retail price than it is in Japan.