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Issue 79 - Suntory time

Whisky Magazine Issue 79
April 2009

 

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Suntory time

Dave Broom talks plum liqueur, the boom years and Japan's drinking culture with the quiet genius behind some of country's best loved whiskies.

The once was a young man who loved staring at the stars, picking his way through the map of the sky in the night with his friends. It would get chilly on these long vigils. The only central heating was a warming draught of whisky. “It was so cold,” says Seiichi Koshimizu recalling those days. “Whisky was good to keep you warm.” He pauses and gives one of his slow smiles. “It was probably Suntory Red.

It worked!” Now the chief blender at Suntory, Koshimizu-san is one of the giants of whisky, but like most in his profession, he prefers to let his whiskies do his talking for him. Yet, this modest, almost bashful man has both starred on Japanese television and is becoming an established speaker at tasting events around the world. As retirement looms, the quiet man is emerging.

Did the notion of becoming a blender come to him when he sipped that star-gazing Suntory Red? It appears not. In fact, whisky wasn't even top of his mind when he left Yamanashi University in 1973 to join Suntory; wine was. He had studied oenology and as the firm had a winery in the same area it was a logical destination. That said, he didn't end up making wine, but working in whisky bottling. Then came the idea of becoming a blender? He laughs one of his silent shoulder-shaking laughs, arms folded across his chest. “To be honest, no, because we didn't even know what a whisky blender did! They were hidden from us, they were secret figures.” And now you are one of those mystery men? His shou...

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