Suntory is celebrating 100 years of innovation with ultra-limited edition Japanese whiskies

Eat & Drink

‘For relaxing times, make it Suntory time.’ Seven words are all it took for the House of Suntory, Japan’s most formidable beverage company, to be etched into pop culture forever. Uttered by Bill Murray in Sophia Coppola’s Oscar-winning masterpiece, Lost In Translation —a film that still oozes cool exactly twenty years later—the phrase could be one of the most effortlessly charming and enduring advertising catchphrases ever spoken on film.

‘For relaxing times, make it Suntory time.’ Six words are all it took for the House of Suntory, Japan’s most formidable beverage company, to be etched into pop culture forever. Uttered by Bill Murray in Sophia Coppola’s Oscar-winning masterpiece, Lost In Translation —a film that still oozes cool exactly twenty years later—the phrase could be one of the most effortlessly charming and enduring advertising catchphrases ever spoken on film.  Of course, House of Suntory itself needs few introductions. Founded in 1923 by Shinjiro Torii who is succeeded by his grandson today, it is the oldest malt distillery in Japan and the name behind the biggest names in Japanese spirits —Yamazaki, Hakushu, Chita, Kakubin, Hibiki, Suntory Whisky Toki and Ao, as well as Roku and Haku and many more.   

So naturally, when the House of Suntory’s 100th anniversary rolled around this year, Coppola couldn’t resist a return to Japan to help celebrate the major milestone, this time with a new muse and former Suntory campaign star, Keanu Reeves in tow.

Soundtracked by the achingly cool ‘Crimson and Clover’ by Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, ‘Suntory Time’ is a nostalgic, fun and dreamy short film tribute to the legacy of Suntory Whisky seen through Coppola’s eyes —and be warned, just like Lost in Translation, it will make you yearn for a trip to Japan. Here, she dives into the Suntory Whisky archives to look back on the house’s cultural impact over the last century. It includes flashes of nostalgic moments, historic branding and vintage commercials —many of which still feel relevant in today’s market. Coppola even included some iconic Suntory moments from her own vault, as well as those from Reeves’ 1992 Suntory Reserve ad campaign.  

“I’m honoured to partner with Suntory Whisky again thirty years after our Suntory Reserve campaign,” Reeves said of the collaboration. “I’m a huge fan of Suntory Whisky, so it’s very special to collaborate in honour of this milestone anniversary.” Digging even deeper into the exquisite craftsmanship, creativity and legacy of House of Suntory, Reeves will also star in a series of documentary shorts, The Nature and Spirit of Japan, directed by Roman Coppola.  

“My admiration for the whisky goes beyond tasting the whisky,” says Reeves. “It is the elevated Japanese craftsmanship and attention to every detail that makes Suntory Whisky so special. As an actor honing and perfecting my own craft, sharing this process in a docuseries is a thrill.”

Both the whisky connoisseur and the curious will not want to miss this series, as The Nature and Spirit of Japan will not only examine Japanese spirits culture but also the philosophies at play. Aiming to foster a memorable and moving exploration of both the House of Suntory and Japanese culture, the series will look at how ‘Wa’  (harmony with nature), ‘Monozukuri’ (Japanese craftsmanship) and the art of Omotenashi (the unique Japanese meeting of culture, hospitality and mindfulness) all play a part in the legacy, perfection and innovation of Japanese spirits. Not to mention how and why the House of Suntory became one of the most revered distilleries in the world.    

Of course, it wouldn’t be a proper celebration without a special ‘Suntory time’ drop for the toast. To celebrate the 100-year milestone the House has opened its cellar door to release several very limited-edition whiskies that best showcase a centennial of meticulous blending and craftsmanship at Suntory’s whisky distilleries.

This kind of celebration only happens every century so expect nothing less than the most exquisite, discerning and legacy-fuelled blends. Case in point: Yamazaki 18 Year Old Mizunara and Hakushu 18 Year Old Peated Malt whiskies, as well as very limited 100th-anniversary labels of the flagship Yamazaki 12 Year Old and Hakushu 12 Year Old. “Hakushu and Yamazaki whiskies are gifts from our past handed down by generations,” Fifth Generation Chief Blender Shinji Fukuyo said of the announcement. “It is fitting to release limited editions as part of this incredible milestone, as they represent our relentless pursuit of quality and symbolise our promise to carry our philosophy on for the next one hundred years and beyond.” 

In a move that both strengthens the House of Suntory brand and also gives back to its homeland, the House of Suntory has also committed 10 billion JPY (AU$104million) towards renovating and enhancing its Yamazaki and Hakushu Distilleries, which will be reopened later this year. For those who want to stay ahead of the news, the company also recently announced a new global membership program via its website where enthusiasts can come together to be among the first to hear of new releases, be eligible for experience invitations and gain early access to everything House of Suntory.

Kanpai! 

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