Suntory Toki NYC launch event
Suntory is launching a new whisky in North America – available June in the US and July in Canada. Suntory Toki is exclusive to the North American market for now and will be available at a suggested retail price of $39.99. Toki, which means time in Japanese, is a blended whisky that is meant to fulfill the insatiable demand for Japanese whisky in the US/Canada. In case you didn’t already know, Suntory is the company behind popular Japanese whiskies: Yamazaki, Hakushu and Hibiki. Before we jump into the specifics of Toki it’s worth exploring the history of Japan’s acclaimed distillery.
Suntory started out in 1923 with the establishment of Yamazaki distillery in Kyoto. Founder Shinjiro Torii envisioned a whisky that was distinctly Japanese in essence yet also made in the traditional Scottish way. He also faced a huge challenge of creating a complex whisky that would suit the delicate palate of the Japanese. His first whisky, Suntory Shirofuda, launched in 1929 and failed. Torii learned from his mistakes and successfully released Suntory Kakubin in 1937. Today, Kakubin is a staple whisky in Japan as the country’s number one seller.
With the success of Kakubin, Suntory built two new distilleries in the 70s – Chita in 1972 and Hakushu in 1973. Chita, located on the Seaside of Chita Peninsula, exclusively produces grain whisky which is used in Suntory’s blends. Chita makes three different types of grain whiskies from corn grain – clean, medium and heavy. They are produced through a continuous multiple-column distillation process. Hakushu, nestled in the Japanese Southern Alps, creates peated whiskies – light and heavy.
Throughout the years Suntory has consistently sought ways to cultivate the growth of Japan’s whisky culture at home and abroad. In their quest for creating the best Japanese whisky possible, they’ve accumulated numerous accolades and awards. Suntory is without a doubt the biggest player in the Japanese whisky market and you can always expect high quality from their releases.
Toki is a new blend for Suntory that is made distinctly different from Hibiki. Toki has two main components – Hakushu American white oak and Chita heavy-type grain. The dressing or as the Japanese like to say, dashi, of the blend is spirit from Yamazaki American white oak and Yamazaki Spanish oak. I sampled the three main components of Toki and they’re all delicious as stand-alones. The Hakushu has scents of banana and green apple – the spirit is mellow and crisp. The Chita smells of earth and mushrooms – the spirit is rich with vanilla and sweet syrup. It’s smooth and the finish cuts very short. The Yamazaki Spanish oak is full of red fruits and oak spices. Suntory’s chief blender Shinji Fukuyo determined the ideal combination of these whiskies to create Toki. My tasting notes to follow:
Nose: green apple, asian pear, honey, brown sugar
Mouth: silky smooth, lemon citrus, grapefruit, green grapes
Finish: green apple skin, grapefruit bitterness, ginger, oak spices
Verdict: The nose is dominated by green apple – underneath that there is Asian pear, honey and some brown sugar. Bottled at 43% ABV Toki is very smooth and silky. There’s a good amount of citrus flavor – lemon and grapefruit. There’s also a green grapes flavor that carries into the finish. The finish is pretty long with an abundance of grapefruit bitterness, ginger and some oak spices. Overall the complexity of this whisky is muted and very subtle. My thoughts are that this whisky was crafted with bartenders in mind – it is absolutely delicious in a highball. It’s very palatable neat – but lacks a certain richness and complexity that you find in a Yamazaki 12, Hakushu 12 or Hibiki 12. Keep in mind that this whisky is meant to satisfy the ultra-high demand for Japanese whiskies. It’s not going to knock your socks off, but if you want a smooth sipper to enjoy on a summer night – then Toki is a great bet. And at the $40 price point you really won’t find another whisky that is of similar quality.