In February 1899, Shinjiro Torii, a man with a passion for Western spirits and wines, established a shop in Osaka. He decided to name it the Kotobukiya Liquor Shop.
At that time, the Japanese liquor market was centred around the locally produced sake and shochu and the majority of Japanese consumers were not great fans of rich and heavier Western alcoholic beverages.
Shinjiro persisted in his passion, though, and in 1907 he released Akadama Port Wine onto the Japanese market. This was a sweetened red wine which he had created after experimenting flavouring and sweetening Spanish wines.
It was, against all odds, a success. His store grew to become the Kotobukiya company in 1921 and in 1923, Shinjiro built the country’s first malt whisky distillery, set on a breathtaking site on the outskirts of Kyoto. It was named Yamazaki. With the benefit of a varied climate, a good level of humidity and plentiful pure surrounding waters, production began in late 1924. Five years later Suntory Whisky Shirofuda (White Label), the first single malt whisky ever to be made in Japan, was released for sale.
World War II brought a challenging period for the distillery. Kotobukiya was forced to stop its development of new products. However, in 1946 it re-released Torys Whisky, which proved extremely popular in post-war Japan.
In 1963, Kotobukiya changed its name to "Suntory", which was taken from the name of the whisky it produced – and still produces to this day. Currently Suntory offers 4 highly regarded expressions – from blends to single malts.
Each of the Suntory expressions is highly awarded, with honors including a collection of Golds at the International Spirits Challenge , the San Francisco World Spirits Competition and the International Wine and Spirits Competition.
Suntory has also been honoured with the ‘Distiller of the Year’ accolade 4 times in 2010,2012,2013 and 2014 by Whisky Magazine’s Icons of Whisky competition.