Suntory Old is a popular release from Japan. First produced in the 1940s, it remained one of the most prestigious whiskies to come out of the country until the 1980s when single malts grew in popularity. Medium-bodied with spicy notes, this is an excellent Japanese sipping whisky.
Until Suntory opened its first distillery in 1923, all whisky in Japan was imported. Entrepreneur Shinjiro Torii soon found that the two key ingredients of Japanese whisky, water and barley, are in limited supply. In order to expand his company, Torii created a deal with another company that owned a distillery. However, the deal fell through and Torii was forced to start his own distillery in the area of Yamazaki in Osaka (which is where the Suntory Yamazaki Distillery still resides today).
The name of Suntory comes from “Sun” which is Shinto for rice and “Torii” who was the man who began the company. In 1934, Torii introduced the Suntory Whisky brand. By the time the distillery came to an end in 1960, the company had begun to see immense success within Japan and had even begun selling their products in Taiwan and Hong Kong.
Numerous bottles of Suntory released before the 1980s can still be found in markets around the world. Examples of these prized bottles include Bottled in Bond Suntory Whisky, a release from the late 1960s, and The King of Whisky, a blend first released in 1955. The popularity and prestige of Suntory Old Whisky catapulted the company into becoming the largest Japanese whisky producer and today the company is in the top ten whisky producers in the world.
As I said earlier, I am a massive fan of single malt whisky. I wouldn’t label myself a specialist when it comes to sipping whisky, but my exposure to different styles of Japanese whisky has definitely broadened my appreciation of the beverage.
The current release of Suntory Old Whisky is instantly recognisable to fans of Japanese whisky, especially those that enjoy the whisky from the Yamazaki distillery. The colour is a nice bronze-y amber, while the nose contains plenty of spicy scents. The first spice I pick up on is nutmeg. I smell a hint of cumin as well, though this may be due to the other spices. The nose is very fruity as well, and I pick up a hint of pear.
The palate is interesting; the whisky is fresh even after eleven years. The fruity flavours from the nose translate well to the palate. In addition to having a vanilla-y sweetness, I also pick up a honey flavour. There is a slight spice note that feels like it coats the front of my tongue. However, it is not very strong, and I actually wonder if that is because I haven’t had any other Suntory whisky. The finish is medium-to-long with a slightly buttery texture.
The most interesting part of the whisky was the finish; it is slightly sweet and very soft. It finishes surprisingly quickly because the taste and texture of the whisky falls away just as you feel like the flavour is becoming more apparent.
This is an excellent whisky. It’s not priced too high and it has a reasonable flavour, but it’s not overly complex or unique. Fans of Yamazaki will love this whisky. However, single malt aficionados may be put off by this release.
Don’t let that deter you, though. Suntory Old Whisky is excellent, and it’s certainly worth a try.