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The Japanese language is filled with iconography and symbolism that isn’t always understood in the West. In the case of the Suntory Yamazaki whisky, it represents more than the name of the surrounding region upon which the distillery is built.

Suntory Yamazaki Distillery
Photo: Suntory Media Kit

The name “Yamazaki” is made up of two Kanji (Chinese writing) characters – 山 is “yama” or mountain, and 崎 is “saki” or promontory. These words are prominently featured on the hand-affixed label of each bottle coming off the production line, fittingly for a distillery located in the gentle green slopes overlooking the union of three major rivers between Osaka and Kyoto, the Katsura, Uji, and Kizu.

Japanese readers will notice that the right-side component of the word “saki” is written to resemble the word 寿, “kotobuki” or longevity, instead of the original 奇, “ki” or weird. This intentional symbolism pays tribute to the humble beginnings of Japanese single malt whisky at this location in 1923, and wishes for its continued success for a very long time.

The Suntory Yamazaki Distillery is a must-visit destination for any enthusiast, given that it’s the only place in the world where one can experience a flight of component whiskies taken straight from the cask that form the basis of the famous Yamazaki 12 Years Old. Easily accessible by foot from the Yamazaki Station on the JR Line, it’s only 15 minutes away from downtown Kyoto, or about an hour away from downtown Osaka.

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