I’m not a whisky drinker. My favourites are vodka and beer. Yet, I recently spent a lot of time researching Japanese Whisky. I was hired to host the President’s Ball at Entrepreneurs Organization (EO). It was an upmarket event for the millionaire entrepreneurs and clearly, they did spare expenses. They had the most exquisite dinner. They even imported the whisky that won the International Spirits Challenge to win the title ‘The Best Whisky in the World’. 300 Whisky brands from around the World competed and guess who won? The Japanese !!
Every time I think of the World’s best whiskies, it is always the Scotch whiskies that come to my mind. After all, Scotland is the birthplace of whiskies. However, I was quite surprised and intrigued to learn that the title pride belongs to Suntory Distilleries of Japan. It is not just by fluke. They have won the ‘Best Whisky in the World’ award four years continuously. Surely, they must be doing something right.
Interestingly, Whisky had not even reached the shores of Japan until 1923. Shinjiro Torii, the founder of Suntory, had tasted the scotch and wanted to be the first to introduce it to Japan. It was a failure at first as whisky is an acquired taste. Torii envisioned a Japanese approach by choosing a terrain and climate completely different from those of Scotland. Torii chose the region of Yamazaki, on the outskirts of Kyoto as the birthplace of Japanese whisky. The rest is history. Suntory is now the 3rd largest alcohol company in the World
There’s a key lesson here. We don’t have to be a pioneer. But if we have the penchant to customize to our target audience and continuously keep improving, we will succeed. An important lesson I learned from the evening dinner.