Some of our readers have been quite interested in the Suntory Old bottles. Apparently the word on the internet is that they are quite old, as in 19th century old. It’s true that they are old, old enough for Sean Connery to drink it in the 1967 Bond movie You Only Llve Twice , but not old enough for Lafcadio Hearn to enjoy it. It was in fact first introduced to markets in 1950. The reason people think it is older is that some of the early bottles have the year 1899 inscribed on it. This is actually the founding date of Suntory, not the vintage year of the contents of the bottle.
Suntory old was released after the war when the Japanese public was finally starting to appreciate the exotic taste of whisky. The whisky business in Japan was young at the time and Suntory Old was considered a high class, high priced and highly sought after whisky. During the first few years “Ancient whiskies” was printed on the bottle. By the 1960s however, this was dropped in favor of “A blend of choice whiskies.” The lineup also acquired its current name of “Suntory Old Whisky.”
There have been more changes over the years. By the 1960s for example some technical information started appearing on the far left and right bottom of the label. In 1994, the line “Mild and Smooth” was added. Also, up until 2008 the name “Kotobukiya” (Suntory’s original name) could be found on the bottles.
In recent years the label has followed the Chinese zodiac calendar with a new animal on the label every year corresponding to that year. The bottles are extremely collectible as a limited number is produced every year. We at Dekanta have acquired a dozen examples and will continue to acquire a few more.