The Master Blender

A few weeks ago we did a brief introduction of a few of the makers of Japanese whisky, this week however we are going to go into more detail and tell you a thing or two about a legend in the Japanese whisky biz; Seiichi Koshimizu, the chief blender of Suntory whisky.

Seiichi is an interesting man, he was born in Yamanashi prefecture, near Mount Fuji, in 1973, after completing his studies, he joined Suntory where he initially worked at the company’s whisky maturation research institute. After a decade or so there, he started working at the famous Yamazaki Distillery (link) where he managed cask filling, dumping and the blending process. He did so well there that by 1999 he was appointed chief blender and by 2014 “Chief Blender Emeritus” a position created for him as his prestige had risen so much. He also has his name on the hall of fame at the world whisky awards. In the past few years he has become quite famous in Japan, even outside the whisky industry. He has appeared on national television, written books and traveled around the world to attend trade shows on behalf of Suntory.

He is certainly well worth all this as he is for example credited with having developed Bamboo Charcoal Filtration and Japanese Oak Cask Maturation. He claims that he wanted to put all the bamboo which grew around the Yamazaki distillery to some good use, he therefore started experimenting, the bamboo is charred and whisky is the poured over the resulting charcoal which adds a peculiar flavor to it, reminding one of vanilla. He also wanted to see if he could put Japanese oak to a good use and had barrels made out of them, the result is an unusually sweet flavor, popular among many.

His job is something every whisky fan would envy; it consists of tasting the stuff from 200-300 casks every day! Of course that does not mean that Seiichi is rolling on the floor dead drunk on the job every day. He spits out the whisky after rolling it around his mouth a bit in order to get a sense of the taste. Nonetheless he does occasionally feel a bit tipsy after getting past the 100 cask mark. Not a bad job…

When he is not on the job, and has time to relax and drink as opposed to just spitting it all out, what is his favorite whisky? “A nice shot of Hibiki, either 50-50 or on the rocks,” he says.

There you have it, if you have not tried Hibiki yet, its time to do so, the Chief Blender Emeritus” should know!