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Yamazaki Whisky – From Japan’s Most Famous Whisky Distillery

Yamazaki is Japan’s most famous whisky distillery.

Located in Shimamoto in Osaka province, just outside of Kyoto, Yamazaki is Japan’s oldest malt whisky distillery, founded by Shinjiro Torii in 1923. A year later, Torii hired Masataka Taketsuru, the man credited with founding the Japanese whisky industry and who later went on to set up his own distillery, Nikka.

Owned by Suntory, the Yamazaki distillery uses many different methods of production and maturation to have as wide a selection of whiskies available for blending as possible.

The distillery sits at the confluence of three rivers and the supply of pure, fresh water along with the local climate was one of the key decisions by Torii when deciding where to build the distillery in this particular location.

The still house is home to six pairs of copper pot stills of various sizes and shapes. Some have been imported from Scotland and some are Japanese produced and they result in both heavier and lighter distillates to allow a wide range of blending options.

Multiple types of oak casks are used for the maturation, again adding to the layers of flavour available to the Yamazaki blenders. These include in-house manufactured tall and short 480 litre puncheons and both hogsheads and barrels made from American oak (ex-Bourbon), Spanish oak (ex-Sherry) and also the super rare and expensive Mizunara oak. With different levels of char and a mix of first fill and refill casks, there is endless opportunity for flavour creation and development.

With multiple awards, including ‘World Whisky of the Year’ by Jim Murray for the Yamazaki Sherry Cask 2013, the distillery is now firmly installed at the very top table of whisky brands globally.

Yamazaki Whisky: Iconic Bottlings


Yamazaki 50 Year Old First Edition

A 2005 release of just 50 bottles, there have subsequently been two later editions of the Yamazaki 50 Year Old, but it is this First Edition that is the holy grail for collectors. It has previously smashed world records for the most expensive Japanese whisky ever sold at auction and a bottle sold at Bonhams Hong Kong in May 2022 for just under GBP 500k including buyer’s premiums.


Yamazaki 55 Year Old

Bottled in 2020, the Yamazaki 55 Year Old is the oldest single malt ever released by Suntory. It is a blend of two unique single malts, one that was distilled in 1964 and aged in white oak, with the other distilled in 1960 and aged in the super-rare and difficult to handle Mizunara oak casks. Only 100 bottles were produced. A recent bottle sold for just under GBP 520k inc. buyer’s premiums at Sotheby’s New York in June 2022 while the highest has achieved a sell price of over £560k. It was initially released in ballot and was only available to Japanese customers.


Yamazaki The Century

This bottling was the first single cask single malt bottling form Suntory, created to mark the 100th anniversary of the company and also the new millennium. 300 bottles were produced and the whisky was a 40 year old, distilled in 1960. A Mizunara oak cask was used in the maturation, and the stunning decanter was produced by the famous Japanese glassmakers Kagami Crystal. A highly sought-after and now rarely seen bottling.


If you are interested in reading more whisky producer profiles, then do take at look here.

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