Yamazaki Distillery (Suntory Holdings Limited)|Detailed Distillery Information

Whisky Distillery
Whisky Distillery
Yamazaki Distillery

The first whisky distillery in Japan, which will celebrate its 100th year of operation in 2023.


1. Outline

Shinjiro Torii,” the first president of Kotobukiya (now Suntory), started the distillery in 1923.
It is world famous as the first whisky distillery in Japan, and its numerous products have been highly acclaimed at international whisky competitions.
The distillery is easily accessible and attracts many tourists every day.

The first plant manager was “Masataka Taketsuru,” the founder of Nikka Whisky, who is also known for the popular TV drama “Massan”.
The distillery has been renovated and expanded as the company has grown, and has invested about 70 billion yen in facilities over the past 10 years or so.

The distillery uses “Rikyu-no-mizu,” one of the best 100 waters, which is said to have been used by Sen no Rikyu when he made tea.
The distillery has only one dunnage-type cellar, which can be seen during the tour, and there are four dunnage-type and rack-type cellars in the distillery, as well as 19 aging cellars in Omi, Shiga Prefecture.

The distillery will celebrate its 100th anniversary in 2023 with an investment of 10 billion yen, and has taken this opportunity to adopt a prehistoric system of “floor malting”.



2. Basic Information

2-1. Owner

Suntory Holdings Limited

2-2. Location

Postal Code 618-0001
5-2-1 Yamazaki, Shimamoto-cho, Mishima-gun, Osaka, Japan

2-3. Access

・JR West Japan Tokaido Main Line (Kyoto Line) Yamazaki station 7 minutes by walking
・Hankyu Railway Kyoto Main Line Oyamazaki station 10 minutes by walking

For detailed access information, click here

アクセス サントリー山崎蒸溜所

2-4. Commencement of operations

1923 (Taisho 12)

2-5. Main Products

Single Malt Yamazaki 12 years

[Review] Single Malt Yamazaki 12...
This single malt whisky, one of Japan's representative single malt whiskies, was introduced in 1984, the 60th year since...

Yamazaki 12 years was the first Japanese whisky to be recognized in a global competition, a historic accomplishment.
It is a famous episode, but the “崎” character of Yamazaki in the Kanji character is a broken character, hiding the “寿” character of Kotobukiya (the company name before it was changed to Suntory).
This is a reflection of Suntory’s second generation Keizo Saji’s feelings toward his predecessors.

Yamazaki 12 years Awards
2003 ISC (International Spirits Challenge) Gold Medal
2009 SWSC (San Francisco World Spirits Competition)・Double Gold (Highest Gold Award)
2010 ISC Gold Medal
2013 SWSC Double Gold
2014 SWSC Gold Medal
2018 ISC Gold Medal

3. Tour and Visitor Center

Reservations are now being accepted for tours as of 2023 (*Reservations must be made by lottery due to the immediate aftermath of the reopening).
After the tour, visitors can learn about the history of the distillery, enjoy rare tastings such as 25 years Yamazaki and Hakushu and Hibiki 30 years at the “Yamazaki Whisky Museum,” and shop at the gift store.

Currently, there are two tours available: “Yamazaki Distillery Manufacturing Tour (80 minutes, 3,000 yen)” and “Yamazaki Distillery Manufacturing Tour Prestige (120 minutes, 10,000 yen)” which is held on Tuesdays and Thursdays only.

Click here to apply for the lottery for reservations.


Click here to see the report of our staff’s actual visit to Yamazaki Distillery before its renewal, which is very rare nowadays.

Suntory Yamazaki Distillery:Visi...
One hundred years ago, Shinjiro Torii and Masataka Taketsuru of Kotobukiya (now Suntory) paid a visit to the Suntory Yam...

3-1. Gourmet Information in the Surrounding Area

After stopping by the Yamazaki Distillery, you can indulge your taste buds with Kyoto’s gourmet delights.

3-2. Sightseeing Lodging

If you come to Kyoto, why not enjoy Kyoto sightseeing and Kyoto hotels along with the distillery tour?

4. Manufacturing Specifications

Yamazaki Distillery’s production specifications are publicly available, but the production volume is not actually disclosed.

Glenlivet distillery produces 21 million liters per year, and Glenfiddich distillery produces 10 million liters per year (10 first distillation units and 21 redistillation units).
The Carilla distillery, the largest producer on Islay, produces 6.5 million liters per year (3 first distillations and 3 redistillations). Ardbeg is estimated to produce 2.4 million liters per year.
Production output private
Stockwater Tennozan Groundwater
Malt Nijo barley (phenol value 0~40ppm)
Stocking One batch 4~16 tons
Malt mill Porteous 4 Roller Mill
Saccharification tank Two stainless steel units made by New Mill Iron Works
Wort volume 100,000 liters / 25,000 liters
Fermentation tank

8 units of Oregon Pine manufactured by Nihon Mokkan Mokkan / 25,000 liters
12 stainless steel units manufactured by Nippon Chemical Machinery Manufacturing / 90,000 liters

Pot still

(1) Hatsudome device
Forsythe / Miyake (both with direct gas flame)
Straight type 6 units, Bulge type 2 units
Capacity 10,000-15,000 liters

(2) Redistillator
Forsythe/Miyake (heating method: steam coil, heat pan)
Straight type 4 units, Bulge type 4 units
Capacity 6,000-8,000 liters

Cooling system

○ First distillation: 6 shells & tubes / 2 worm tabs
○ Redistillation: shells & tubes

 Bottling facilities existence
Cellar Dunnage type, 4 rack type and 19 Omi aging cellars in the distillery

5. Maturing environment

The three rivers, Kizu, Katsura, and Uji, converge at the junction of the Osaka plains and the Kyoto basin, creating a thick fog, which makes the air less dry.
Fortunately, there are no orchards nearby, and there are no harmful bacteria that can interfere with the fermentation of whisky yeast, which is good for the microflora.


The aging casks in storage are marked with the year of aging on the top panel.
The white mirror plate is malt whisky and the black one is grain whisky brought from the Chita distillery.
Mizunara oak casks have the kanji character “” written on the end of the cask, and furthermore, the character “” is written next to it to indicate how many times the cask has been used.

The very first cask (1924) is displayed at the back of the aging room.
If you look closely, you can see the Cádiz stamp on it.

The main storage facility, the Omi Aging Cellar, is a mystery, as it is not open to the public for tours.
However, according to the company’s annual securities report for fiscal year 2021, three capital investments were made in just one year from 2021 to 2022, suggesting that the company will continue to strengthen its system for increasing its production of sake.
In addition, Beam Suntory has invested in a branch office in New York, which is expected to further strengthen the company’s ability to meet overseas demand.

6. Distillery Story

6-1. History

“Yamazaki Distillery,” the first whisky distillery in Japan, will celebrate its 100th anniversary in 2023.
The history of “Shinjiro Torii,” the founder of Kotobukiya (now Suntory), who started his own business at the age of just 20, brought the whisky culture to Japan, where Western liquor culture had not taken root at the time, and was called the father of whisky, is summarized in more detail in this article.

↓Over 20,000 words, BOOKMARK recommended! The life of “Shinjiro Torii” who lived with whisky and the history of Japan↓.

↓Over 20,000 words, BOOKMARK recommended! The life of “Shinjiro Torii” who lived with whisky and the history of Japan↓

6-2. Successive blenders

First Master Blender “Shinjiro Torii”

“Shinjiro Torii,” the well-known founder of Kotobukiya, originally had an excellent sense of smell and was called the “nose of Osaka”.
It is said that he learned the know-how of blending at a medicine wholesaler where he served as an apprentice.
He was fond of saying, “Try it, try it, or you will never understand.” Needless to say, this spirit is the foundation of Suntory today.
It is said that he and Keizo Saji, the second master blender, often had father-son fights, with the president’s office yelling at him daily, “You’re a heck of a blender! from the president’s office on a daily basis.
Despite his rough temperament, he also had a loyal side that was quick to come to the aid of those in need.

If you are interested in learning more about “Shinjiro Torii,” here are some books we recommend.

Chief Blender “Tameo Onishi”

He is the person who discovered the underground water of the Ojira River in Hakushu, which is the mother water (brewing water) of Hakushu Distillery, through the granite.
Tameo Onishi, nicknamed “Water Hunter” for his persistence in seeking better water quality, is believed to have been the first person to find Mizunara oak wood as a substitute for barrel wood when it became difficult to purchase barrels from overseas due to postwar influences.
He served as the 8th Yamazaki distillery factory manager from 1963 to 1970.

Image Citation:Suntory HD

Second Master Blender “Keizo Saji”

“Keizo Saji,” the second president of Kotobukiya and known as the founder of Suntory, was the second son of the Torii family.
It is said that at the recommendation of Shinjiro, he studied at the Department of Chemistry, Faculty of Science, Osaka Imperial University, focusing on the synthesis of amino acids, which affect the higher alcohols contained in whisky.
His eldest son Kichitaro was supposed to succeed him, but he died prematurely at the age of 33, so his second son Keizo took over the reins.
The Saji family name is a mystery, and there are many theories. Please refer to the article on the Saji family name in the Historical Contents section of this website.
The company is also famous for restarting the beer business, which its predecessor Shinjiro struggled with and once withdrew from, and launched Junsei, a non-heat-treated bottled draft beer, in 1967.
He was the founder of the Public Advertising Agency (now AC Japan) and has a deep knowledge of the arts, contributing to the improvement of cultural projects in Japan such as the Suntory Museum of Art and Suntory Hall.
In 1973, he built the Hakushu Distillery and launched the single malt “Hakushu”.

On the occasion of its 90th anniversary, in 1989, under the theme of “resonating with people and nature,” the company released “Hibiki,” a blended whisky that was later inducted into the Hall of Fame at the World Competition of Alcoholic Beverages.

As a side note, Suntory’s managers used to shudder at the memo paper (and no longer needed lined paper) with instructions, commonly known as “marume”, given to them by president Keizo.
It was so named because Keizo’s signature of k in ○ looks like the hiragana “me”.
It is said that the name was originally adopted by Hitomi Yamaguchi, who was head of the advertising production section when Keizo was senior managing director, who used to pass around memos with instructions to her subordinates on the backs of flyers.

Chief Blender “Sato Inui”

He is the man who, together with Keizo Saji, created the current single malt “Yamazaki” over a period of two years.

Chief Blender “Koichi Inatomi”

Former Suntory Chief Blender.
Former boss of Chief Blender Seiichi Koshimizu and developer of “Hibiki 17 years”.

In 1968, he studied at Heriot-Watt University in Scotland, where he earned a PhD in basic research in brewing.
After leaving Suntory in 2000, he was a visiting scholar at the University of Glasgow, where he engaged in research on the industrial history of Scotch whisky.
In 2016, he was awarded the “Hall of Fame” recognized by “Whisky Magazine,” the world’s leading whisky magazine.
He is the second Japanese to be inducted into the Whisky Hall of Fame.

Image credit: Whisky Magazine

The third generation master blender “Shingo Torii

Born in 1953. Graduated from Konan University. Completed graduate studies at the University of Southern California.
Director since 1992, Vice President since 2003, Representative Director of the Kansai Association of Corporate Executives since 2012, Vice President since 2002, and Vice Chairman of the Osaka Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
The founder, Shinjiro Torii, is his grandfather, and the second president, Keizo Saji, is his uncle.
He has been a master blender since 2002.


Image credit: Wikipedia

Chief Blender “Seiichi Koshimizu”

Seiichi Koshimizu
Born in Yamanashi Prefecture in 1949.
1973 Joined Suntory and assigned to Tamagawa Factory
1976 Engaged in whiskey storage and aging research at the Central Research Institute and the Liquor and Food Research Institute
1985 Moved to Yamazaki Distillery (now Yamazaki Distillery) (in charge of storage)
1991: Moved to the Blender’s Office at the Institute of Western Wine and Spirits
1996: Chief Blender, Blender Office
1999 Chief Blender, Blender Office
2014 Honorary Chief Blender
2015 Inducted into Whisky Magazine’s “HALL of FAME
<Current Activities>
Visiting Professor at Kansai University
Visiting Professor, University of Yamanashi
Yamanashi Ambassador
Vice President and Representative Director of Haserabo Co.

Chief Blender “Shinji Fukuyo”

Born in Aichi Prefecture in 1961. Graduated from Nagoya University, Faculty of Agriculture, Department of Agricultural Chemistry.
Joined Suntory Limited (at that time) in 1984.
After working in the blender’s office at Hakushu Distillery (now Hakushu Distillery), he moved to England in 1996.
After working at Heriot-Watt University (Edinburgh) and on secondment to Morrison Bowmore Distillers (Glasgow), he returned to Japan in 2002.
In 2003, he became the chief blender, and in 2009, he became the head of the blender’s office and the fifth chief blender.
He has worked on many Suntory whiskies, including the various limited edition series of Yamazaki.

7. List of other distilleries

List of Japanese Whisky Distille...
The latest list of whisky distilleries in Japan updated in January 2021, including Yamazaki distillery, Hakushu distille...
Misato Ushiwata

Born in Fukushima Prefecture.
She attended a university in Tokyo, where she studied brewing and other sciences while translating articles for the "Japanese Whisky Dictionary".

Misato Ushiwataをフォローする