SUNTORY’S CHIEF BLENDER, SHINJI FUKUYO, SPEAKS HIS MIND
I’ve worked at Suntory for 35 years, and I’ve been chief blender since 2009. When you are a blender, you have to completely change your lifestyle. I wake up before 4 every morning. I keep my body in peak condition. I avoid all spicy foods, smelly foods. Never garlic. I need my nose and tongue to be confident by the time I’m at work. Despite all the technology today, blending is determined not by chemical analysis, but by the tongue.
When I’m crafting a blend like Hibiki Harmony, I start with my key whisky, always using the oldest malt, with the most flavor. From there, I move to the core malts, in this case Yamazaki Sherry Cask and Yamazaki Mizunara. Chita Grain Whisky is used to stretch out the flavors. Then, there’s Hakushu Smoky Malt Whisky, I call that the “hidden player.” Ultimately, we use fourteen different whiskies to make Harmony, but I’m constantly adding and subtracting, trying to make it perfect by nosing, tasting, blending.
We don’t just enjoy the whisky—we analyze it.
“Add a very soft water to your whisky when doing a tasting, just like the water by the Yamazaki Distillery.”