Suntory Whisky: Video Promotions Inc. 50th Anniversary
Updated: Mar 15, 2021
A 1960/2010 anniversary Yamazaki Malt and Grain Blend kicks off the first of my "Obscure but Probably Rare" whisky posts
Updated 3/14/21 to highlight more strongly that this is not guaranteed to be or contain 50 year old Yamazaki
Whisky Type: Malt and Grain Blend
Age of Malt: *possibly* 50 year Yamazaki malt
Age of Grain: 20 year Grain (probably Chita as 2010-20=1990 and Chita was built in 1972)
Release Year: 2010
Bottling Type: Company Anniversary
Company: Video Promotions Inc
Anniversary: 50th (1960/2010)
Label: ...Unique. I'm really at a loss for words 😅
Available to Public: Unconfirmed but unlikely since it's for a company anniversary
Initial Cost: Unknown
Recent Auction Price (as of Aug 2020): $2500-4000
Type: Ceramic - hard to tell how good the fill level is. Ceramic bottles such as this typically weight somewhere between 1100-1600g (anywhere in this range is generally safe, emphasis on 'generally')
Forgeries: Unlikley - bottle is obscure and likely only released to company employees (who probably drank the whisky)
I initially found a photo of this bottle online, and the very unusual label caught my attention. Then, two other things stuck out to me:
1. the age of the anniversary: 50th anniversary
2. the date range on the bottle: 1960-2010
As I mentioned in my last post, anything with a date range and/or an anniversary has potential for something epic. Also, there have been a couple of 1960 Mizunara Yamazaki bottles, so I was hoping that this date was an indicator of 1960's Mizunara. As I did more research, I found a picture of the back of the bottle, and luckily, it specified the contents of the bottle (translated from Japanese):
A blended whisky made from raw sake that has been aged for at least 20 years, starting with the 1960-distilled Yamazaki malt, which has the distinctive character of Mizunara barrels...
Yes, a component of this blend is 1960/2010 Mizunara Oak Yamazaki!!! Okay, well technically it could be (1960 20 year) Mizunara casks, but I think it's unlikely that Suntory stored 20 year old whisky in an inert container and used it in a blend (but very possible!). That also means that the grain component is at least 20 years old (and likely from Chita - founded 1972). I would then like to speculate that this is very much likely a blend of a single cask of Yamazaki malt (maybe two, 50 year + 20 year) + a single cask of (Chita) grain. The reason being that this is a company anniversary bottle, which means it was given to employees. I can't imagine more than 500 employees would receive a bottle (if they even have 500 employees). A 20 year single cask would likely fill 200-500 bottles, and a 50 year old single cask might fill about 50-100 bottles, so my guesstimate works out.
While I cannot find any reviews or even a picture of this bottle open, I would imagine that it tastes quite good as it was bottled in 2010. Why? By 2010, Shinji Fukuyo was the Master Blender, the first Yamazaki Sherry Cask limited release was out (released 2009), multiple single casks had been bottled, and in general Suntory was well past the phase where they blended for smooth easy drinking.
What makes this more interesting is the Mizunara component of the blend. During WWII era, importing wood into Japan for cask staves was quite difficult and the priority for wood was not whisky. Suntory had already experimented with native wood species, and they began focusing on Mizunara oak to keep their warehouses full. Suntory soon found out that this species of Oak was difficult to work with - it was more porous and harder to shape than American and European oak. Over time, they learned how to pick the best Mizunara trees to enable casks that were easier to manage, and their stocks grew. As the years passed, Suntory found that their new make spirit aged quite nicely in the native oak and it became a staple in their blends; in fact it is a prime component in many Yamazaki releases. In general, the oak is said to impart flavors of asian incense, cinnamon and coconut.
I don't know if this bottle will be good, but it has all the right things going for it! If you see it and its a good price, I would say go for it! However, due to the obscurity and the strange art on the front of the bottle, this would probably be more of a drinker than an investment piece (which is what whisky is all about anyway). Good luck!