Distillery Opened Capacity Malting Floor Washback Type Number of Washbacks Number of Wash Stills Number of Spirit Stills
1923 6 million litres Dismissed in 1971 Wooden/Stainless Steel 18 8 8

The Suntory Yamazaki Distillery was founded in 1923 by Shinjiro Torii.

Yamazaki was the perfect location for Japan's first whisky distillery for several reasons. First, the quality of the local water. Sen no Rikyu, the tea ceremony pioneer, reportedly drew his water from this area. It probably didn't hurt the business plan that the site is almost touching distance from Osaka, Kyoto and Kobe.

Shinjiro Torii wanted to "create the perfect whisky that reflects the nature of Japan and the spirit of Japanese craftsmanship". He was an experienced businessman, and in order to provide a solid knowledge base for his Yamazaki Distillery, he sent one of his workers, Masetaka Taketsuru, to Scotland to learn the art of distillation. He wanted to make a whisky suited to the Japanese palate, and ironically ended up making one that people around the world clamour for.

At the beginning of Yamazaki Distillery's history, the very first whiskies were aged in barrels from Spain that the Yamazaki Distillery had been using for its sweet wine. 

Torii's company was called Kotobukiya back then. It was renamed Suntory in 1929, alluding to Torii's Japanese title "Torii-san".

In 1932, the first blended whisky from Suntory Yamazaki Distillery was released, which was blended from the company's malt and grain whiskies but also from Scotch single malts.

With Yamazaki 12 years old, in 1984, the first single malt of the Yamazaki Distillery was released.

In 2013, the Yamazaki Distillery underwent a billion-dollar expansion, installing 4 more pot stills, taking the total to 16.

Suntory Yamazaki Distillery is more accessible than most Japanese distilleries, just 15-minute train ride from Kyoto.

  • 1923 Yamazaki Distillery was founded by Shinijiro Torii
  • 1929 The distillery was renamed Suntory, alluding to Torii's Japanese title "Torii-san".
  • 1932 Yamazaki Distillery's first blended whisky was released
  • 1984 With Yamazaki 12 years old, the first single malt of the Yamazaki Distillery was released
  • 2003 The Yamazaki 12 years old became first Japanese whisky to win the gold medal at the ISC (International Spirits Challange)
  • 2010 Suntory Yamazaki Distillery was appointed "Distiller of the Year" by Whisky Magazine
  • 2013 The Yamazaki Distillery underwent a billion-dollar expansion
  • 2015 Yamazaki Single Malt Sherry Cask was appointed "Whisky of the Year" in Jim Murray's Whisky Bible

The Yamazaki Distillery is equipped with 16 pot stills. The stills are varied in size and shape, some with boil balls, some without, some direct fired, some using steam, some with steep arms, some with straight ones, to produce a miscellany of styles.

In Yamazaki there are eight wash backs made of Oregon pine wood with a capacity of 40,000 litres each and ten stainless-steel wash backs with a capacity of 50,000 litres each.

The Yamazaki Distillery core products consist of:

  • NAS
  • 12yo
  • 18yo
  • 25yo

Image source: Suntory Yamazaki Distillery Official Website