O’ Yamazaki Distillery

One of the last things I did before moving out of my apartment in Kyoto was take a free tour of the Suntory Yamazaki [Whiskey] Distillery (山崎蒸溜所), nestled in the hills of Oyamazaki in between Kyoto and Osaka. Southern Kyoto Prefecture’s unique, high-humidity climate (due to its location in a mountain valley) and good water supply made Oyamazaki an ideal location to set up a distillery in 1923. The hour-long tour featured an explanation of the wash back and still rooms, a tour of the warehouse where barrels are stored (including the 1923 No. 0001 barrel) and the whiskey is aged. Japan being a land of enshrined spirits, behind the facilities there was a “sacred waterfall” that is credited as the source of Yamazaki’s award-winning flavors, and a small shrine in the woods that houses the deity charged with protecting the spring. The tour culminated with a complimentary highball tasting, where visitors are encouraged to try Yamazaki 12 and 18-year single malts, as well as the Hakushu 12-year variety. Hakushu (白州) refers to a relatively new distillery Yamazaki opened in the Japanese Alps, featuring a particularly dry and oaky single-malt whiskey only sold in Japan (though a blended version is available in the U.S.). It was nice to also interact with the businessmen who were attending on lunch break, who all seemed to be in agreement that the Hakushu highball was the best.

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