Whisky Profile – Mike Miyamoto, Suntory Whisky

September 30, 2015
By Alana House

Following on from Beam Suntory’s Great Whisk(e)y Rumble, drinks bulletin caught up with the characters behind the whiskies.

Mike Miyamoto – Suntory Whisky:

Can you describe the unique flavour profile for your whisky?
Suntory Whisky is best described in three words; subtle, refined, yet complex.

What is it about the style of whisky that you produce that is most important to you?
At Suntory Whisky, we take pride in the way nature is incorporated into our whiskies. From the location of the distillery, to the season when each whisky is made, nature is one of the most important elements, as well as Japanese craftsmanship; Suntory whisky is a creation of Japanese nature and Japanese people.

What makes your whiskies unique? What is it within the production, the team, the flavour that sets it apart from competitors? 

Suntory Whisky is the pioneer of Japanese Whisky. Shinjiro Torii, the founder of Suntory and the creator of Japanese Whisky, wanted to bring the style of scotch to Japan and went about creating it with the Japanese palette in mind. He decided to create an authentic Japanese whisky, which would appeal to a delicate palate and established the Yamazaki distillery in 1923. He chose a terrain and climate that was completely different to Scotland to create a unique taste, while reflecting the best of Japanese nature and craftsmanship.

What is it about the whiskies that you produce that you think appeals to drinkers?
Our whiskies offer something different in each expression and offer an element of sweetness in each sip. They are completely different from other whiskies because they are versatile, smooth, light and best enjoyed with food.

What is it about the craft of distilling whisky that is the most “romantic” or “appealing” to you?
Although we also use equipment and machines for whisky making, our whisky making is greatly dependent on the environment and human beings. Therefore, each whisky liquid produced from casks is different. This fascinates me and makes me feel that whisky is indeed created by Japanese nature and Japanese people.

Share with us how the raw materials and the distillation process impacts the flavour profile of the whisky?

Water plays a very important role in deciding on the character of whisky, and the environment where the whisky is matured is another important role. 50% of the whisky is water and environment and the other 50% could be achieved by the style of whisky we make (pot still, cask, fermentation, and etc).

Your brand has significant history, how has the style changed over the years?
We take pride in developing new flavour profiles in our whiskies, and our blenders are the most special in the world. It is in our nature to work with unmatched attention to detail. Our style has changed to suit the changing market and demand, in that we work to develop new tastes to suit drinkers.

Given its style, what drinking occasion is your whisky best suited to?
In Japan, Suntory Whisky is enjoyed at all occasions; after work, over dinner, on the weekends, and year round. It can be enjoyed in highballs, on the rocks, neat, or over an ice sphere.

How is the brand perceived globally and do you feel it’s any different in Australia from what you have experienced?

In Japan, Suntory Whisky is a household name. In other markets, we are widely recognised as a leader in the whisky market and one of the most luxurious whiskies globally. We also work to maintain a consistent brand image in all our key markets. Australia is no different, and particularly over the last year has seen a large upswing of Japanese Whisky advocates.

As Australian whisky palates develop, what is your brand doing to take advantage of this?

We are encouraging trial, and exposing more consumers to the unique flavours with consumer pop ups, including The House of Suntory Exclusive Takeovers, to demonstrate the way Suntory Whisky is best enjoyed; with food. We are also promoting the Hibiki Japanese Harmony as an introduction of the Hibiki brand, because it is a more accessible option for whisky drinkers.

What is your favourite whisky? And how do you like it served?

Yamazaki 12 Year Old in any style.

What is your favourite mixed drink?
A Whisky Highball.

From a portfolio perspective, what products do you want to lead in the Australian market to build your overall brand?

Hibiki Japanese Harmony is our newest expression – the latest masterpiece in The House of Suntory Whisky portfolio. It is a meticulous and refined blend that offers a symphony of at least 10 aged malt and grain whiskies from Suntory’s Yamazaki, Hakushu and Chita distilleries, developed by third-generation Master Blender Shingo Torii and fourth-generation Chief Blender Shinji Fukuyo.

What is your advice to Aussie drinkers on how best to enjoy your whisky?
Try our whisky in many styles to find your own favourite.

Why do you think Aussies love your whisky?
Because our whisky tastes good!

Can you describe your experience with introducing Japanese whisky to Australian consumers? Was there much apprehension? Or was it an easy sell?
Suntory Whisky has been very well received in the Australian market. The refined flavour of the whiskies are perfectly suited to Australian consumers who are very discerning and appreciate fine cuisine and culture. We knew that whisky was becoming very popular and felt that our luxury Japanese whiskies, which are crafted to be enjoyed with food, would offer Australia, which is a very progressive country, a new way to enjoy whisky. Suntory Whisky is rich in his heritage, which appealed to Australian consumers who had a desire to learn about the visionary, soul place and founding family of the whisky, as well as experiencing its taste.

Can you explain what The Art of Suntory campaign is?
The Art of Suntory embodies the harmony that exists between Japanese nature and Japanese people. We translate The Art of Japanese Whisky through campaign activity by appealing to all five senses. For example, the art of food pairing communicates the taste profile of the whiskies. Visually, the bottles themselves also sing back to the connection with nature and art such as the 24 faceted Hibiki bottle, which represents the 24 months in the traditional Japanese calendar. Similarly, Hakushu is distilled in the mountains and the green bottle it is presented in represents the purity and freshness of this process.

What is the most important message from Hibiki Japanese Harmony (NAS) and Hakushu right now? 
Hibiki Japanese Harmony is a blend that reflects the expert craftsmanship and delicate nature of the Japanese, and it is at once pure and complex. There is a transparency of taste that allows this whisky to reveal all of its complexities simultaneously. More than 12 malt and grain whiskies are blended together to create an enveloping harmony of flavours and aromas.

Share the content