• Richard Murff

Suntory isn't a copy of anything...



Japanese markets – as inventive as they are – rarely seem to come up with much on their own that has a shelf life longer than the pre-teen fad. Still, they sure can jump on another nation’s pride and joy and do a hell of a job. The Chinese, with their total disregard of patent and copyright law, as well as basic human rights, might make something cheaper, but the Japanese will make it more efficiently, and as often as not, better.

The Land of the Rising Sun improved on the watches of Swiss, the cars of the Germans, and American electronics. They turned their sights on on the whisky of Scotland – which is a little off-sides because the Scots don’t have much else. Let’s hope they don’t hit on some radical innovation in tweed.

To wit: Suntory Whisky Toki isn’t scotch – it’s Japanese Whisky. But it is very good and spelled without an “e” so we know what sandbox we’re playing in. The Scotch Whiskies of the old country have different styles that vary wildly. So you know, Suntory is operating in the same profile as the Lowland stuff. If you go in for those great Islay whiskies like Bowmore or Laphroaig, it might seem a bit delicate.

Which isn’t to say Suntory has missed its target, it hasn’t: this will give a fine Lowland a decent run for its money. It’s light and lacks that overpowering peat flavor that turns so many off and turns a few on.

Started in 1923 by Shinjiro Torii, Suntory was inspired by Scotch whisky at a time when the Brits were still making themselves obvious around the neighborhood. Inspired, Torii wanted to adapt a blended whisky to the more delicate Japanese palette. These are the people behind sushi, you understand, not the Scotch egg.

Suntory isn’t trying to make a carbon copy of anything and that’s the beauty of it. It isn’t a copy but a good whisky in the same general mold with a new twist: There is a note of ginger and lemongrass, with a hint – hint – of white pepper behind it all, to make it interesting.



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