Dr Koichi Inatomi, better known as ‘Tomi’, started his whisky career in 1959 when he joined Kotobukiya Company, now Suntory, after finishing a degree in biochemistry at Osaka University. His first job was a chemist at the quality control laboratory at Yamazaki Distillery where he gained a wide range of experience in whisky production including malting, distilling, warehousing and blending.
Tomi’s study at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh for several years from 1968 gave him an opportunity to deepen his understanding of scientific knowledge and thought on brewing and distilling. He was also inspired by the soul of Scotch whisky having immersed himself in Scottish life and culture during this time.
Back in Japan, Tomi was given a task to organise cross-departmental collaboration and promote technology development for innovation in quality and efficiency in malt and grain distilling, cask utilization and maturation. The results are thought to have laid the foundations for the reputation of Suntory whisky today. This led to Tomi being appointed as head of the design and engineering team on a project to build a new Hakushu Distillery, which was further extended to the refurbishment of the Yamazaki Distillery ten years later.
In 1984, Tomi was appointed Chief Blender for Suntory whisky. Most of Suntory’s flagship whisky brands, Yamazaki and Hakushu single malt and Hibiki blended whiskies, are his creations. In 1987, he was given concurrent duties as General Manager of Laboratories for Distilled Spirits and Liqueurs as well as Whisky Blender. He was promoted to director in 1990 and served until 1996 when he became a senior adviser.
From 2003, Tomi became a researcher at The Centre for Business History at the University of Glasgow, Scotland, and has engaged in a research project relating to the history of distilling. Tomi served as Suntory Whisky Ambassador in Europe for four years from 2009.