This week, the House of Suntory surprised Japanese whisky lovers with the release of their Yamazaki distillery’s oldest and rarest liquid ever bottled: the staggeringly old Yamazaki 55, which was bottled in 2020. We were there for the NYC launch event, which granted access to the rarefied whisky, an exceptional blend that channels the brand’s illustrious history. This limited edition release nods to several of Suntory’s most historic figures, underscoring the liquid with a thoughtful story.
Oldest among the components is whisky distilled under the supervision of Suntory’s founder Shinjiro Torii in 1960 that has been aged in Mizunara casks. The second component is whisky distilled by Suntory’s second master blender Keizo Saji, in 1964 aged in White oak casks. Lastly, Suntory’s fifth-generation chief blender Shinji Fukuyo worked alongside third-generation master blender Shingo Torii to craft the complexity of Yamazaki 55 from these source materials.
We sampled the Yamazaki 55 alongside the brand’s very accessible 12 year old, indulgent 18 year old and extravagant 25 year old—each a joy to drink. Notes and color get accentuated as the liquid ages, but share a characteristic sweetness; they are fruit-forward, lightly smoky and woody, and have a light honey finish.
The intensity of the Yamazaki 55 shares the family lineage, presenting itself as the oldest and wisest of the clan. It is brimming with flavor, aroma and color, stimulating nearly all of your senses. An indulgent dram of concentrated Yamazaki, over five decades in the making, may be heralded as one of the finest Japanese whiskies ever released.
Yamazaki 55 finds a home worthy of its majesty within an elegant, engraved crystal bottle. Real gold dust and lacquer accent the age marking, and “Yamazaki” is conveyed through sand-blasted calligraphy. Handmade Echizen washi paper covers the bottle top, which is tied with a traditional Kyo-kumihimo plaited cord from Kyoto. Further, each bottle rests in a handsome box made from native Japanese Mizunara wood and coated with Suruga lacquer.
Yamazaki 55 is now available in select markets globally (the US, UK, China and Taiwan) for $60,000 per bottle. 100 bottles were released in Japan last year and this year’s release includes another 100 bottles, making it legend among collectors and the very few lucky people who will ever have the opportunity to enjoy it. Expect to see prices much higher than the retail price as these few precious bottles are resold and auctioned. Beam Suntory will donate $5,000 from the sale of each bottle ($500,000 in total) to benefit The White Oak Initiative, an organization preserving America’s white oak forests.
Images courtesy of Suntory