The title for this post was delivered by Bill Murray in the 2003 film Lost in Translation. Murray’s character, a washed-up, ethically-challenged Hollywood star, was doing promotional work in Japan for Suntory whisky. The film turned out to be one of the greatest ads in whisky history.
Many of my non-whisky friends who watched the film were shocked when I told them Suntory was an actual company. Suntory is very real, and a multinational juggernaut. Canadian Club, Alberta Premium, Bowmore, Laphroaig, Jim Beam, and Maker’s Mark are all Suntory brands. There’s more, but you get the idea. They’re the third-largest distilling company in the world, but in order to become a household name, they needed the help of a film on a shoestring budget.
Suntory had no idea Lost in Translation was using their products until Sofia Coppola, the film’s director, approached them and explained how critical they were to the story. Once Suntory realized the film didn’t depict their products unfavourably, they gave Coppola the “green light.” The film garnered international acclaim, winning 3 Golden Globes and an Academy Award. It also turned out to be a steady diet of product placements and references that didn’t cost Suntory a dime.
The film was a huge hit at the box office, grossing almost $119 million. People wanted to try the whisky Bill Murray drank in the picture. Bars all over the world started carrying Suntory products. The phrase “Suntory time” became synonymous with Japanese whisky. Liquor stores couldn’t keep up with demand. Suntory couldn’t keep up with demand. Suntory, a multi-billion dollar company established a century before the film’s release, became an overnight hit.
Hibiki Japanese Harmony is a blend made from 3 Suntory-owned Japanese distilleries: Chita (grain), Hakushu (lightly peated malt), and Yamazaki (typically unpeated malt). Like most Japanese whiskies, it’s very clean and balanced. Sweet, floral nose with some bourbon and grain notes. Fruity palate. The back end is where this whisky really shines, especially the finish. The bottle is absolutely gorgeous. Incidentally, Hibiki is the whisky Murray holds up when he delivers the line responsible for selling thousands of bottles of Suntory whisky worldwide. “For relaxing times, make it Suntory time.”