When we take a look at Suntory Whisky we could talk about the Sofia Coppola film Lost in Translation, possibly Sammy Davis Jnr. advertising the product or even discuss the slightly crazy (to our western eyes anyway) idea of the Japanese producing what is traditionally acknowledged as a Scottish or Irish product. But no, we’re not going to do that because trading in clichés is something we try (not always successfully we should add) to avoid here at VoEA HQ. Instead we’ll take a brief look at their illustrious history and then let the pictures do the talking.
As the second largest producer of single malt whisky in the world (any guesses who’s number one?) Japan knows what it’s doing when it comes to producing the old fire water and they’ve been doing it for some time now. In 1923 Shinjiro Torii, who first founded Suntory in 1899 selling imported wines, set up Japan’s first ever distillery in the Vale of Yamazaki, noted for its conditions favourable to producing good whisky – pure, clean water, high humidity and a diverse climate (meaning lots of rain we imagine – not unlike Scotland). The brand has gone from strength to strength over the years and Suntory Yamazaki is and has been for some time the number one single malt whisky in Japan.
But enough of the history lesson. One of the reasons for Suntory’s success is their excellent advertising – which also curiously has caused them a problem too. The aforementioned Sammy Davis Jnr. ads from the early seventies were followed of few years later by a number of adverts filmed using American celebrities including Francis Ford Coppola. This inspired his daughter Sofia to write Lost in Translation which although a critical (it won an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay) and commercial success (it grossed a remarkable $120 million from a budget of only $4 million) has also been accused of portraying the Japanese in an unpleasant stereotypical manner. The unfortunate, unintended knock-on effect of this is that Suntory whisky is still associated with a washed-up, lonely American actor selling his soul in a cheesy commercial and not to its otherwise excellent ad campaigns over the years. So check some of our favourites below and if you feel so inclined, try a wee dram whilst you’re at it.
Images from V.Valenti