The seasons and spirit of Japan

Updated on Jun 28, 2021 05:14 PM IST

Brunch Focus Collaboration: From the magnificence of nature in the Land of the Rising Sun and the subtleties of its varied seasons to the hands and hearts of its artisans comes a spirit born from the Japanese way

The birthplace of Japanese malt whisky
The birthplace of Japanese malt whisky
BySandeep Arora

My love affair with Japan began many years ago. Here is a country smaller than California but perhaps so much more understanding of its culture and the nature that surrounds it, that it almost provides the people with a source of spiritual and creative insight. This is what I witnessed in many Japanese activities – from the creation of sushi, to the art of paper folding called’ Origami,’ their talent in flower arranging, named ‘Ikabana’; their tea ceremony that represents harmony, respect, purity and tranquillity and much more.

Japan lives in its traditional that merges beautifully with its conceptual present. When I visualise Japan I see the air thick with pollen in anticipation for the arrival of sakura (cherry blossoms). The trees are laden with flowers in many shades of white, pink and grey. Under these, welcome parties are being held. Here is a Japanese tradition that goes back in time – for spring is a time to renew old bonds and forge new ones. Their concept of ‘Kaizen’, which means striving for perfection, has seen Japan emerge as the world’s second largest market for luxury goods: from automobiles and electronics to its fashion garments and fine range of spirits. Take Hibiki Whisky that has been embraced as the paragon of The Art of Japanese Whisky. Launched in 1989 to commemorate Suntory’s 90th anniversary, it is a spirit that celebrates the unrivalled art of blending, fine craftsmanship and a sense of luxury from the House of Suntory.

Sandeep Arora, India’s pioneering whisky ambassador and Director of Spiritual Luxury Living
Sandeep Arora, India’s pioneering whisky ambassador and Director of Spiritual Luxury Living

My experience of Japan made me realise that the origin of Japanese values and culture lies in the people’s harmony with nature. It is this close bond that I witnessed in its distilleries as well. Take for instance the wood from the mizunara tree, only located here, that adds one of the most unique flavours to Japanese whisky.

The Yamazaki Distillery was established in 1923 by Suntory’s founder Shinjiro Torii. Though initially inspired by traditional Scottish whisky, Torii envisioned a Japanese approach by choosing a terrain and climate completely different from that of Scotland. As he said, “I want to create original Japanese spirits the whole world can enjoy, uniquely made from Japan’s nature and her people.”

Built amidst the deepest forests of Mt. Kaikomagatake
Built amidst the deepest forests of Mt. Kaikomagatake

He chose the region of Yamazaki, on the outskirts of Kyoto, as the birthplace of Japanese malt whisky. This is where the Katsura, Uji and the Kitzu rivers converge, providing a unique misty climate and one of Japan’s softest waters. The diversity of this region’s temperature and humidity creates ideal conditions for cask ageing – also known as the signature ‘Suntory Maturation.’

Hakushu, the second Suntory distillery was built in 1973 by Shinjiro Torii’s son, Keizo Saji. Built amidst the deepest forests of Mt. Kaikomagatake in the Japanese Southern Alps, the malt whiskies born here are simultaneously blessed with a very particular microclimate, verdant forests, and water offering a rare softness and purity, only made possible by the filtration of rain and snow through thousand-year-old granite rocks.

Chita’s grain whiskies have achieved an unrivalled sophistication
Chita’s grain whiskies have achieved an unrivalled sophistication

Keizo also built a distillery on the misty, calm shores of the Chita Peninsula - dedicated to creating the highest-quality Japanese grain whisky. The Chita Distillery makes three types of grain whiskies - the heavy-type grain whisky, the medium-type and the clean-type. Due to their exceptional smoothness and balance, Chita grain whiskies have traditionally been used as the ‘Dashi’ or broth that enhances the harmony in Suntory’s renowned blended whiskies. Today, the Chita Distillery’s grain whiskies have achieved an unrivalled sophistication and complexity—culminating in The Chita Single Grain Whisky.

Toki means “time” in Japanese. It’s a concept rich in meaning the world over, but particularly in Japan where respect for tradition and reinvention sparks a powerful creative energy. Inspired by that interplay, Suntory Whisky Toki™ brings together the old and new—the House of Suntory’s proud heritage and its innovative spirit – to create a blend that is both groundbreaking and timeless. Toki Blended Japanese Whisky was unveiled in India, a few weeks ago. It is truly an impeccable blend of Japanese craftsmanship and inspiration from nature.

Wait till you taste it
Wait till you taste it

A vivid amalgam of whiskies from Suntory’s Hakushu, Yamazaki, and Chita distilleries, Suntory Whisky Toki™ features the quintessential characteristics of a Suntory blend: exquisite balance, harmony and oneness. At the same time, its unique pairing of Hakushu American white oak cask malt whisky with Chita heavy-type grain whisky, overturns the traditional hierarchy between malt and grain. These seemingly dissimilar but deeply accordant whiskies, together with select Yamazaki malts for additional depth and complexity, give Suntory Whisky Toki™ its silky flavour, vivid character, and bold inventiveness.

Today Japanese spirits, most notably its whiskies, are gaining a foothold in a world where Scotch has always dominated. “One of my mentors said ‘you should think of whisky all the time’ to get the finest results. So, I’m constantly creating new experiments in the distillery and challenging myself to create new products. I also work with my colleagues on new ideas and concepts based on customer preferences, constantly monitor evolving palates and assess the market. My role is to coordinate all areas and ensure all teams work together,” explained Shinji Fukuyo, the Chief Blender, Suntory Japan.” The introduction of Toki enhances the House of Suntory portfolio and adds more strength to Yamazaki Distiller’s Reserve and Hibiki Japanese Harmony, besides Roku Gin.

Why it works
Why it works

Japan is many things to many people, for me as a lover and connoisseur of all thing spirit-ual, it is the combination of nature and the people that have harmoniously come together to put a little magic back into our lives by taking the ordinary and making it an extraordinary experience.

Please note
Please note

Disclaimer: This content is for people above 25 years of age only

From HT Brunch, June 27, 2021

Follow us on twitter.com/HTBrunch

Connect with us on facebook.com/hindustantimesbrunch

SHARE THIS ARTICLE ON
SHARE
Story Saved
×
Saved Articles
Following
My Reads
My Offers
Sign out
New Delhi 0C
Monday, December 05, 2022
Start 15 Days Free Trial Subscribe Now
Register Free and get Exciting Deals