Suntory Whisky has had an undeniable effect on Japanese whiskey culture and its popularity around the world.

This year marks a century since Shinjiro Torii established Suntory’s Yamazaki distillery, Japan’s first commercial whiskey distillery, and fifty years since the opening of the Hakushu distillery.

Suntory whiskey celebrated the milestone with guests in Sydney at the newly opened Oborozuki restaurant in Circular Quay, where guests sampled a range of Suntory whiskies, including limited release whiskies blended especially for the anniversary celebrations.

House of Suntory ambassador James Buntin, who hosted the event, mentioned the integral role of Tori Bars in Japanese whiskey culture. In the 1960s and 70s, these tiny bars were on street corners all throughout Japan. Only fitting around eight people at a time, the bars were known for their artful construction of highballs, served with hand cut ice as a one-on-one experience with each customer.

Guests at the Sydney event were witness to the Australian premier of Academy Award-winning director Sofia Coppola’s short film, the Suntory Anniversary Tribute. This advert inspired the inclusion of Suntory in Sofia Coppola’s 2003 film Lost in Translation, which originated the famous “Suntory Time” slogan. Starring renowned actor Keanu Reeves, Coppola’s tribute is an energetic collage exploring the history of the Suntory brand and the true meaning of Suntory time.

“I’m honoured to partner with Suntory Whisky again thirty years after our Suntory Reserve campaign. I’m a huge fan of Suntory Whisky, so it’s very special to collaborate in honour of this milestone anniversary. My admiration for the whisky goes beyond tasting the whisky. It is the elevated Japanese craftsmanship and attention to every detail that makes Suntory Whisky so special. As an actor honing and perfecting my own craft, sharing this process in a docuseries is a thrill,” Reeves enthused.

To mark the brand’s 100th anniversary, Suntory has released four super premium limited-edition bottlings of its renowned Yamazaki and Hakushu ranges. Fifth generation chief blender Shinji Fukuyo spoke to the importance of the Hakushu and Yamazaki whiskies to Suntory.

“Hakushu and Yamazaki whiskies are gifts from our past handed down by generations. It is fitting to release limited editions as part of this incredible milestone, as they represent our relentless pursuit of quality and symbolize our promise to carry our philosophy on for the next one hundred years and beyond,” Fukuyo said.

The Yamazaki 18 Year Old Mizunara is exclusively aged in mizunara casks, a native Japanese oak.

“Yamazaki 18 Year Old Mizunara was blended for our 100 year anniversary and features a rich texture created from a long aging process. This expresses the delicate and meticulous attention to detail that went into its craftsmanship,” Fukuyo described.

The Hakushu 18 Year Old Peated Malt is a daring exploration into peated whiskey for the distillery, with a subtly smokey flavour mellowed by the granite-filtered mountain water used in the Hakushu distillery. The limited edition anniversary packaging of Yamazaki 12 Year Old and Hakushu 12 Year Old reflect the concept of “monozuruki”, a style of Japanese craftsmanship integral to the Suntory distilling process.

Jon Potter, managing director of House of Suntory, expressed his pride at the milestone.

“As the pioneer of Japanese whiskey, the House of Suntory played a significant role in shaping culture and leading craftsmanship in Japan over the last century. To mark this historic milestone, partnering with Sofia and Keanu, who are Suntory Whisky fans, makes perfect sense. From our fifth generation chief blender Shinji Fukuyo’s striking blends to Sofia and Keanu’s unique cinematic creations, this commemoration has surpassed all expectations to celebrate our iconic Japanese whiskies,” Potter concluded.

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