On Sept. 20, Nobu Malibu greeted a handful of guests to celebrate the West Coast launch of Yamazaki 55. Bottled in 1964, it's the oldest release in the House of Suntory history.
Retailing for a suggested $60,000, Yamazaki 55 was first released last year in Japan and is now making its way to global markets, including the U.S., the United Kingdom, mainland China and Taiwan. Just 100 bottles were released in 2020, mirroring this year’s collection of which $5,000 per bottle will be donated to The White Oak Initiative.
Yamazaki 55 joins the House of Suntory’s award-winning lineup of whiskies, including Yamazaki 12, 18 and 25. However, this work by their multi-generation master blenders set the bar even higher.
“Throughout the process of blending Yamazaki 55, I used as inspiration the passage of time and ‘Wabi-sabi’— the Japanese belief that imperfections can help to ultimately contribute to perfection,” Suntory’s fifth-generation chief blender, Shinji Fukuyo, said. “While I often view other extra aged whiskies as art, I consider Yamazaki 55 to be more like a Buddhist statue: calm and mysterious, requiring time to truly enjoy the inner beauty.”
A blend of precious single malts, the process ultimately began under Suntory founder Shinjiro Torii in 1960, during which components were distilled and then aged in Mizunara casks. It was then aged in White Oak casks in 1964 under Suntory’s second master blender, Keizo Saji. Ensuring the 55’s success, Fukuyo worked closely with third-generation master blender Shingo Torii to deploy Suntory’s signature art of blending. The result is a testament to history and craftsmanship.
The Nobu celebration of Yamazaki 55 attracted the likes of Bling Empire’s Kane Lim, Alex Landi of Grey’s Anatomy, Ross Butler of 13 Reasons Why and Daniel Dae Kim. Guests were welcomed to the oceanside patio at the peak of golden hour to enjoy mint, lemon or grapefruit highballs.
Before the sun began its final descent, the group headed into a musky, wood-paneled private room. Each person had an assigned seat with a glass of water, a water dropper, an empty wine glass and two samples ready to go of Yamazaki 12 and 18. The big moment came after a behind-the-scenes presentation about the House of Suntory and the 55. To ensure the 55 did not leave the room, servers delivered small velvet bags that held numbered vials of the whisky. Guests were asked to pour the Yamazaki 55 into the wine glass— just as its creators intended to have it consumed. Awe emitted from the select group of tasters. A soft, smooth sip blossomed into a sweet, though slightly bitter flavor and was followed by a smoky, rich flavor that lingered long after.
“It’s not often you get to taste something as incredibly rare as #yamazaki55, and with this group of people,” Kim would later write in an Instagram post. “Very grateful for the experience.”
Such gratitude was also expressed by Butler. “Tonight, not only was I able to taste the Yamazaki 18, but I was also extremely lucky to be given the chance to try the Yamazaki 55, which was in a tier of its own,” he wrote on his Instagram Story. “It was beyond delicious. I was in a daze just being able to experience them both at the same time.”
Under the full moon, the evening capped with a specialized dinner created by Chef Nobu. It was a one-of-a-kind experience only matched by the individuality of the Yamazaki 55 itself.
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Photography by: Courtesy House of Suntory