The following article was produced in partnership with the House of Suntory.
“For relaxing times, make it Suntory Time.” Bill Murray’s iconic line in Sofia Coppola’s seminal, melancholic, Academy Award-winning rom-com Lost in Translation helped make Suntory Whisky a household name among cineastes in the West, even those who weren’t whisky drinkers. Incongruous yet witty and dapper, it’s a classic quote. Personally, every time I pour a dram of whisky, it plays in my head…
2023 marks the 20th anniversary of Lost in Translation, but it also happens to mark the 100th anniversary of Suntory whisky. In 1923, Suntory founder Shinjirō Torii established the Yamazaki Distillery, Japan’s first commercial whisky distillery, just outside of Kyoto – revolutionising the whisky industry and kickstarting a now grand tradition of world-renowned whiskies.
In a move that’s equal parts surprising and fitting, the House of Suntory has collaborated with Sofia Coppola on a stylish yet touching anniversary tribute film starring Keanu Reeves – who is notoriously a huge fan of Suntory Whisky – that evokes the idiosyncratic spirit of Lost in Translation while also toasting 100 years of Suntory’s whisky innovation.
Watch Sofia Coppola’s “Suntory Time” 100th Anniversary Tribute below.
Keanu, of course, isn’t just a fan of Suntory Whisky. He also previously appeared in a Suntory Reserve ad campaign in 1992: a very vibey, Blade Runner-inspired commercial that sees Keanu enamoured by a woman who appears from his computer – which almost foreshadowed his now-legendary role as hacker turned action hero Neo in The Matrix.
“I’m honoured to partner with Suntory Whisky again thirty years after our Suntory Reserve campaign,” says the Hollywood star. “I’m a huge fan of Suntory Whisky, so it’s very special to collaborate in honour of this milestone anniversary. My admiration for the whisky goes beyond tasting the whisky. It is the elevated Japanese craftsmanship and attention to every detail that makes Suntory Whisky so special.”
Coppola’s anniversary tribute film for Suntory is a treat for whisky and movie lovers. Equal parts John Wick, Lost in Translation and 80s rock n’ roll music video (perhaps thanks to the killer Joan Jett cover of Crimson and Clover that soundtracks it), it’s a celebratory deep dive through Suntory’s long history, sharing some of the most iconic ad campaigns the brand has ever produced.
A little-known fact is that Sofia Coppola’s inspiration for the Suntory scene in Lost in Translation comes from an experience her father, legendary producer Francis Ford Coppola, had while starring in a Suntory ad alongside fellow star producer Akira Kurosawa while on the set of one the latter’s films. Naturally, Kurosawa and Coppola make an appearance in Sofia’s film, as do Bill Murray, Keanu Reeves, Ray Charles and Sammy Davis Jr.
The film also explores the breadth of Suntory Whisky’s exceptional product line over the years and demonstrates how Suntory has consistently been one of the most innovative forces in whisky-making.
Speaking of whisky innovation: in honour of their 100 years of whisky making, the House of Suntory is releasing several limited-edition, ultra-rare whiskies that highlight the unique Japanese craftsmanship of Suntory’s whisky distilleries and their meticulous art of blending, including Yamazaki 18 Year Old Mizunara and Hakushu 18 Year Old Peated Malt whiskies. Additionally, limited-edition 100th anniversary labels for their flagship Yamazaki 12 Year Old and Hakushu 12 Year Old whiskies are also being released to celebrate this centennial.
“Hakushu and Yamazaki whiskies are gifts from our past handed down by generations,” says Suntory Whisky’s fifth-generation Chief Blender Shinji Fukuyo. “It is fitting to release limited editions as part of this incredible milestone, as they represent our relentless pursuit of quality and symbolize our promise to carry our philosophy on for the next one hundred years and beyond.”
“As the pioneer of Japanese whisky, the House of Suntory played a significant role in shaping culture and leading craftsmanship in Japan over the last century,” Jon Potter, Managing Director of House of Suntory, explains. “To mark this historic milestone, partnering with Sofia and Keanu, who are Suntory Whisky fans, makes perfect sense. From our fifth-generation Chief Blender Shinji Fukuyo’s striking blends to Sofia and Keanu’s unique cinematic creations, this commemoration has surpassed all expectations to celebrate our iconic Japanese whiskies.”
A fun yet disarmingly touching and clever short film starring one of cinema’s biggest stars that celebrates both Lost in Translation and the history of Japanese whisky – as well as exceedingly delicious and rare expressions of the pinnacle of Suntory whiskies? We can’t think of a better way to mark such an occasion. Kanpai.
Find out more about the House of Suntory and its limited-edition special releases here.