The Japanese whisky brand Suntory has several James Bond links, from being mentioned several times in the 1964 novel You Only Live Twice, consumed by James Bond (Sean Connery) in the movie You Only Live Twice (1967), a series of 1990s commercials starring Sean Connery, to Bill Murray posing as James Bond in the movie Lost in Translation.
In the Ian Fleming novel You Only Live Twice, in which Bond travels to Japan, the Japanese whisky Suntory is mentioned. Bond's contact Dikko Henderson gets drunk of Suntory whisky and sake. The next day, when Dikko has a hangover, Bond says to him 'You shouldn't have poured all that sake on top of the Suntory. I can't believe Japanese whisky makes a good foundation for anything'. Dikko tells Bond that Suntory whisky is not that bad and gets into more detail about the whisky:
"But you're wrong about Suntory. It's a good enough brew. Stick to the cheapest, the White Label, at around fifteen bob a bottle. There are two smarter brands, but the cheap one's the best. Went up to the distillery some whiles ago and met one of the family. Told me an interesting thing, about whisky. He said you can only make good whisky where you can take good photographs. Ever heard that one? Said it was something to do with the effect of clear light on the alcohol." (From the novel You Only Live Twice, chapter 5).
Tiger Tanaka drinks Suntory whisky in chapter 6, while Bond only drinks sake.
In the film You Only Live Twice (1967), in the garden at Tanaka’s home, James Bond (Sean Connery) sips Suntory whisky from a medium-sized glass (see image on the left). There is a bottle of Suntory Old Whisky on the table, along with a pitcher of water. While Aki appears to be drinking water, there is another glass of whisky on the table, which is almost certainly Tanaka's.
The Suntory White Label whisky was the first single malt whisky made in Japan. It was launched in 1929 and got the nickname Shirofuda, which came from the white label on the bottle. After World War II, it was called White.
Suntory was one of the first Asian companies to use Western celebrities to market their product. One of the most notable is Sammy Davis, Jr., who appeared in a series of memorable Suntory commercials in the early 1970s.
In the late 1970s, famous Japanese director Akira Kurosawa directed a series of commercials featuring American celebrities on the set of his film Kagemusha. One of these featured Francis Ford Coppola (an executive producer of the film), which later inspired his daughter Sofia Coppola in her writing of Lost in Translation, a film which focuses on an American actor (played by Bill Murray) filming a Suntory commercial in Tokyo. At about 23 minutes into the film, Bob (Bill Murray) is asked by a photographer to pose as 007, Roger Moore. Bill Murray says he prefers Sean Connery, but the photographer insists he poses as Roger Moore.
The story of Lost In Translation could have been based on the real life Sean Connery, because Sir Sean Connery himself starred in a series of commercials for Suntory Crest 12 in the early 1990s. Watch two ads below and more on YouTube.
Today, Suntory whisky still exists, but it doesn't have the white label anymore.