When most people think of whiskey (or whisky, depending where it’s from, of course!) they tend to think of Ireland and Scotland but for quite some years now Japan has been becoming more and more well known for producing some of the best whiskey around.
One of the biggest producers of Japanese whiskey is Suntory with famous distilleries in different parts of the country. At the Yamazaki distillery between Kyoto and Osaka where Suntory’s Yamazaki whiskeys are made, it’s possible to take a tour around the site and see the whole distilling process from beginning to end, and even get the chance to sample a few of the company’s whiskeys, and the whole thing is completely free!
Getting there is really easy from both Osaka and Kyoto, simply take the JR or Hankyu line train to Yamazaki, both are within easy walking distance of the distillery. Just make sure to call ahead and make a reservation for the tour.
When you arrive, if you don’t speak Japanese they will give you an audio guide which will provide you with all the information on the tour in English or Chinese. Simply put in the number of the part of the tour you’re up to and it’ll play the appropriate part of the tour.
Going through the distillery was really interesting, seeing the different stages and smelling the spirits being made, in one room there were examples of the whiskey at various stages and colours, though I think one of my favourite parts of the tour was seeing where all the many barrels of whiskey being aged are kept and seeing them stretch off in racks into the distance with the dates and style of each printed on the barrels.
The end of the tour is of course the tasting! Starting with a demonstration of how to make the perfect Highball (these are really popular in Japan!), and then samples of the different aged Yamazaki and even some of Suntory whiskeys from the Hakushu distillery. You spend about 15-20 minutes at the tasting and are welcome to sample as much as you like! If you’re a Whiskey fan then you can’t miss it!