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Merchant's Journal

We must never forget our merchant's heart. Shinjiro Torii

The Founder

In 1899, Suntory founder Shinjiro Torii had a vision: he wanted to bring western drinking experiences to his native Japan. He made it his life’s work to make and sell outstanding drinks, and deliver exceptional drinking experiences – from his early products’ exquisite packaging to setting up a touring opera company to dispatch his port wine. Shinjiro’s passion for his product saw him graduate from modest beginners as a small wine-maker to becoming the Taisho – or chief – of a luxury drinks brand with world renown.

We may have grown from shop to company, but we must always be 
a tradesman; we must never forget our merchant’s heart.
Shinjiro Torii

More than a century later, this spirit lives on, and is at the very root of Merchant’s Heart – a brand founded in 2015 and named for Shinjiro’s own ethos. But 19th century humility and values are enhanced by the very best that modern research and experience have taught us about the making of the perfect drink.

The spirit of Suntory:
the Shinjoro Torii creeds we live by
Secret gifts are openly rewarded.
Shinjiro believed in quiet acts of charity, making frequent anonymous donations to poor students and holding annual rice stomping events for his employees to make rice cakes for the needy. Even when Suntory was in financial difficulties, he insisted on making substantial charitable donations – telling his finance director that: “I built this company from nothing. If go back to square one for helping the needy, that is fine with me.
You are never to call me ‘President’ but instead ‘Taisho’ (boss)
Shinjiro retained his humility even as his company grew. He would change out of his smart kimonos into workwear before meeting clients so as not to embarrass them, and would visit them in person by bicycle.
Failing is fine; just don’t make the same mistake twice.
Shinjiro’s first attempt to bring Western drinks to Japan fell completely flat. The Spanish wine he imported was too bitter for Japanese palates unused to the taste of fermented grapes, or alcohol for recreational use. But he turned his mountains of unsold stock into a sweeter drink, more palatable to Japanese taste, and began an inspirational marketing campaign to introduce it to his customers.
If you enjoy it, do your best. All you need to do is follow through.
Blending a Suntory whisky was a long labour of love for Shinjiro. In 1923, after Suntory’s offices were desecrated by a historic earthquake, he decided there was no better time to create a whisky – something that no one had successfully done outside Scotland. It became an obsession. 14 years and 200 million yen later, Shinjiro was still perfecting his whisky – personally blending and testing the product of his Japanese distillery, and waking in the middle of the night with new ideas. He launched the first well-received bottle in 1937, Whisky Kakubin, and continued to tirelessly hone Suntory’s whiskies until 1960, with the launch of Suntory Royal, his final creation.
True joy is joy that can be shared by everyone.
Although he was known to thunder rebukes to employees, Shinjiro was a generous employer, offering welfare and family support and free sustenance to his staff many years before employee benefits became commonplace. He believed in sharing the fruits of prosperity with everyone in his company – and many outside it.

Our Story

One pioneering founder

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10 world-class bartenders

One state of the art drinks lab in Madrid

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One maverick drinks innovator

The making of Merchant’s Heart

Suntory was founded by a pioneering spirit, Shinjirō Torii. He brought Western drinks to the Japanese palate, and continued to innovate and transform the country’s drinking habits throughout his life. Merchant’s Heart was founded with that same pioneering spirit – Suntory set out to create a mixer that transformed the premium tonics category, 
and enhanced the whole drinking experience.

Suntory, themselves meticulous crafters of premium spirits, set out to re-imagine the mixer – crafting tonics and sodas that allow the flavour of premium spirits to shine, shot through with perfect, longer-lasting bubbles. We called them Spirit Enhancers.

The team behind Merchant’s Heart was able to make use of all of Suntory’s assets – a state of the art drinks laboratory in Madrid, an industry-leading Head of Innovation, and a heritage of experimentation and creativity – to start designing Spirit Enhancers.

We then formed a Beta Collective – a small ministry of the best bartenders in the business (Tom Soden, Diego Cabrera, Bobby Hiddleston Ali Reynolds, Davide Segat, Ali Burgess and more) to test, scrutinise and perfect our formulations. We took the Beta Collective to meet the Suntory Head of Innovation, and then worked tirelessly as a team to conjure up flavour ideas, deduce the optimum carbonation levels and hone flavours.

Meet the Beta Collective -

Tom SodenFounder of Ace+Freak and 
co-owner of Nine Lives, 
The Gunmakers and Lion & Lamb.

Meet the Beta Collective -

Diego CabrebaFounder ‘La Cabrera’ and industry expert.

Meet the Beta Collective -

Bobby HiddlestonEx-bar manager of the multi-award winning Callooh Callay, and co-founder of Bar Swift, London.

Meet the Beta Collective -

Ali ReynoldsEx-bar manager Hawksmoor, 3rd best barman in the world and Johnny Walker Brand Ambassador.

Meet the Beta Collective -

Davide SegatBar Manager at The London Edition.

Meet the Beta Collective -

Ali BurgessBar Owner Happiness Forgets and Original Sin, London.

The team behind Merchant’s Heart was able to make use of all of Suntory’s assets – a state of the art drinks laboratory in Madrid, an industry-leading Head of Innovation, and a heritage of experimentation and creativity – to start designing Spirit Enhancers.

We then formed a Beta Collective – a small ministry of the best bartenders in the business (Tom Soden, Diego Cabrera, Bobby Hiddleston Ali Reynolds, Davide Segat, Ali Burgess and more) to test, scrutinise and perfect our formulations. We took the Beta Collective to meet the Suntory Head of Innovation, and then worked tirelessly as a team to conjure up flavour ideas, deduce the optimum carbonation levels and hone flavours.