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Hakushu Whisky: Suntory's Prized Drams Distilled in Idyllic Yamanashi Prefecture

Japanese whisky has become synonymous with pristine quality. Suntory has won umpteen awards for its dedication to the craft of distillation, causing global demand and prices to skyrocket. Suntory's Hakushu whisky is distilled in a gorgeous location surrounded by natural beauty in Yamanashi Prefecture, about a three-hour journey from Shinjuku, Tokyo. Visitors here can enjoy a tour of the distillery to see Japanese craftsmanship first hand and taste some of the world's finest whisky.

 

The global rise of Japanese whiskey     

 

While a common story tells of whisky being introduced to Japan by Commodore Matthew Perry in 1854, the world of whisky officially opened in Japan in 1923 upon the founding of Suntory’s Yamazaki Distillery, a predecessor of the Hakushu label.  In an era of Japan opening rapidly to Western traditions and cultural concepts, the country’s history of brewing sake from rice aided in distilling whisky from grain with great success, and the drink became popular throughout the country.

 

 

Today, Japanese whisky has matured into a refined craft, and Suntory has led the global charge. The company creates some of the most sought-after drams in the world that push the envelope in flavor profile, attention to detail and value.

 

Photo credit: Suntory Hakushu Distillery

 

Exploring the Suntory Hakushu Distillery 

 

Visitors to Japan have the chance to see Japanese whisky created first-hand in idyllic Yamanashi Prefecture at the Suntory Hakushu Distillery. Hakushu was founded in 1973 and produces four core products: Distiller’s Reserve, alongside 12, 18 and 25 year bottlings. Heavily Peated and Sherry Cask offerings were also released in 2013 and 2014.

 

 

Hakushu was founded in the mountains of Yamanashi Prefecture specifically due to the area’s exceptional water quality. After traveling down through the Southern Japanese Alps mountain range, the water is soft, sharp and contains a perfect balance of minerals.

 

Photo credit: Suntory Hakushu Distillery

 

The distillery offers both open visitation, which allows visitors to explore the grounds freely, as well as a paid tour that includes viewing of the production process and a tour conducted by staff. The distillery also includes the Suntory Museum of Whisky, where visitors can learn about the craftmanship behind the award-winning beverage, as well as the history and culture of whisky in Japan. There is also a virtual tour of the distillery  for whiskey aficionados overseas.

 

Photo credit: Suntory Hakushu Distillery

 

Photo credit: Suntory Hakushu Distillery

 

There is also a bird sanctuary on the distillery grounds, further adding to the idyllic appeal of this mecca of Japanese whisky. Also, the surrounding area in Yamanashi Prefecture  is a haven of natural beauty, including mountains and ravines for the adventurous explorer, as well as fresh local blueberries that can be picked. The Suntory Hakushu Distillery is the perfect getaway for any whisky afficionado or curious visitor who wants to explore Japanese craftmanship and tradition in a pastoral setting surrounded by nature.

 

Photo credit: Suntory Hakushu Distillery

 

Where to find your whiskey souvenirs  

 

While a few varieties of Suntory whisky have reached nearly un-obtainable collector’s status due to a surge in global popularity and winning prestigious awards, visitors to Japan will still be able to find whisky souvenirs galore, even without making the trek to the Suntory Hakushu Distillery. Whisky’s popularity means that Hakushu and other varieties are available across the country at liquor shops, department stories and airport duty free emporiums.

 

 

A final word to the wise—while public consumption isn’t illegal in Japan and alcohol is freely available, public intoxication or rowdiness is not socially acceptable. We hope that you enjoy responsibly, and open your palate to the sophisticated and celebrated world of Japanese whisky. Kanpai!

 

Please note: due to extended effects of the coronavirus pandemic, in-person Hakushu distillery tours and facilities including the Suntory Museum of Whisky are currently unavailable. (As of November 1, 2021.) Please check the Suntory website  for details on re-opening.

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    About the author

    gaby_doman

    Author: Caleb DeMarais
    Profile: Caleb DeMarais hails from the USA but has called Japan home for nearly 15 years. Whether knee deep in Japanese onomatopoeia, dissecting traditional craftsmanship or trying his best at rakugo puns, a fascination with everything Japan inspires his work as a writer and translator.

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