E-Malt. E-Malt.com News article: Japan: Suntory to invest in upgrades to its Yamazaki and Hakushu whisky distilleries

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E-Malt.com News article: Japan: Suntory to invest in upgrades to its Yamazaki and Hakushu whisky distilleries
Whisky news

As it marks its 100th year of whisky making, the Suntory group said on February 2 it will invest 10 billion yen ($77 million) over two years in upgrades to its Yamazaki and Hakushu distilleries to further improve the quality of its popular spirits, the Nikkei Asia reported.

Both locations will add spaces for "floor malting," a traditional process for preparing barley for brewing. The pilot distillery at Yamazaki, a small facility used for research and development, will add an electric pot still alongside its direct-fired still.

At the Hakushu distillery, Suntory will cultivate yeast -- a necessary ingredient for fermentation -- as well as update its facilities for visitors. The company plans to reopen both distilleries this fall.

As part of its plans to commemorate the 100-year milestone, Suntory will on June 6 launch a premium canned highball made with spirits from the Hakushu distillery, in a limited run of 150,000 cases. The drink will cost 600 yen per can, triple the price of its standard Kaku Highball. A beverage made with Yamazaki spirits is due out this fall.

Suntory began brewing whisky in 1923 at the Yamazaki distillery, contributing to the adoption of Western-style liquors into Japan's drinking culture alongside the country's economic boom. Japanese whisky has since gained a reputation for quality, and exports of the spirit topped those of sake in 2020, reaching 56 billion yen in 2022.

Brisk domestic and foreign demand has left some products in short supply, and ramping up production is difficult because of the time needed for whisky to mature. The investments in the Yamazaki and Hakushu distilleries will not add any more capacity.

"We've increased the number of aging casks, so supply will gradually increase," said Nobuhiro Torii, president of Suntory Spirits. "But products will remain hard to find because of the supply-demand imbalance."

07 February, 2023

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