Being a huge Bill Murray fan I knew I had to visit the Suntory Yamazaki Whisky distillery when I was in Japan. It’s located by Yamazaki station in-between Kyoto and Osaka and you can reach it by the slow train from either of these cities.
Yamazaki distillery tour
The Yamazaki distillery runs a tour which we booked in advance on their website. The tour costs 1,000 yen each, otherwise you can view the shop and museum for free. While the tour is in Japanese I was given an English audio guide and I found it easy to follow the tour. I was the only non-Japanese person there.
I recommend you take the train or public transport to the distillery as Japan has a very strict no-drink-driving policy and the distillery was very hot on identifying if your car is in the car park and making sure you don’t get any of the whisky samples.
On entering the distillery I was surprised at how calm it was. It’s located in a beautiful area with a large garden surrounding it. Luckily I was with Tatsuya who speaks fluent Japanese which helped here.
As we were early we explored the museum while waiting for the other people in our tour group to arrive. There was an impressive collection of whisky and I even found Jameson 🙂
When the tour started I put on my audio guide and followed the group. The tour showed the distilling process and at each stop there was a number for me to tune into. If you’ve been to a distillery before then you’ll be familiar with the process and nothing here was out of the ordinary except the information about the water they use from the mountains called Rikyu no Mizu.
After the tour we went to the tasting. This was a great chance to try the unblended whisky that makes up Yamazaki Single Malt Whisky. We tried four whiskies during the tasting and we had the option to mix it with soda water to make highballs (very popular in Japan).
At the end we visited the tasting counter. This was at a fee and we tried some of the whiskies with unusual names. There was a group of Japanese businessmen at the table next to us who were enjoying some of the 70 exotic whiskies on offer.
Overall it was a fun morning and I’m happy I had the opportunity to visit. It was easy to get to the distillery and reasonably priced so it’s definitely worth the visit if you want a day out from Kyoto or Osaka.
Suntory Time – Bill Murray from Lost in Translation (2003)