This comes as a surprise, as the major drinks companies in Japan usually keep their methods secret, due to the strong competition between the giants, Suntory, Nikka, and Kirin, in the domestic market.
Excitement for the new spirits has been rising both domestically and internationally since the company officially announced the release, and now, with this information, we can take a deeper look into the distillation practices of one of the most successful drinks companies in Japan.
Nikka’s Coffey range is named after Ireland’s Aeneas Coffey, who developed the continuous Coffey still back in 1831. Unlike normal pot stills, the Coffey still (aka column still) can maintain a constant process of distillation, and also produce a higher concentration of alcohol in the final distillate.
Masataka Taketsuru, founder of Nikka and often named the father of Japanese whisky, imported and installed a Coffey still at the Miyagikyo distillery in 1963. For some years the company produced some low-quality gins and vodkas for the Japanese market, but sales weren’t great and production ceased in 1995.
Emiko Kaji, international business development manager for Nikka Whisky mentioned in an interview that the company created the first batch of the aforementioned white spirits in 2014.
For the past three years, the distillery team has been adjusting and tweaking the flavors, in preparation for their debut.
Coffey Gin & Vodka Distillation
Nikka’s vodka is created using two base spirits, one of corn and one of malted barley, which are distilled separately in the Coffey still and then blended together, diluted, and then filtered.
The Coffey gin also features the same, two base spirits, but the process is a little different.
The base spirits are blended and separated into three batches, each one used to steep three different groups of botanicals. These are categorized into Peppery, Citrus, and Traditional flavours.
The steeped spirits are then redistilled in three separate pot stills and finally blended together, with the addition of some base distillate from the Coffey still.
While this procedure may seem overly complicated to some, the Coffey gin is made with over 11 botanicals including kabosu, amanatsu, yuzu, sansho pepper, and shequasar from Japan, and traditional ones like juniper, angelica, coriander.
In order to bring out all of the complex flavours and create a balanced spirit, each botanical category must be separated and then re-blended, allowing the full potential of each ingredient to shine.
Distillation of white spirits is steadily taking off in Japan, especially gin. The Nikka Coffey gin is sublime, as are the other craft gins currently being produced in Japan.
Take a peek at our Japanese gin collection and discover the full glory of a Japanese gin and tonic!