Nikka Yoichi distillery was opened in 1934 and is the first distillery created by Nikka founder and “Father of Japanese Whisky” Masataka Taketsuru.
One of Nikka’s two malt whisky distilleries (Miyagikyo is the other), Yoichi produces rich, peaty and masculine malt. The whisky gets its distinct aroma and body from direct heating distillation, in which the pot stills are heated with finely powdered natural coal — the traditional method that is hardly ever used today, even in Scotland.
Yoichi distillery is located about 50 kilometres west of Sapporo in southern Hokkaido, which is the northernmost of Japan’s four principal islands. Hokkaido was one of the last Japanese frontiers to be developed. This beautiful location and the natural resources around it make the Yoichi distillery a very special distillery indeed. The Yoichi distillery welcomes visitors and offers free tours of its facility; please see the end of this article for details.
History Of Nikka Yoichi Distillery
Masataka Taketsuru was born in the coastal town of Takehara (now Takehara City) about 60 kilometres from Hiroshima. The Taketsuru family owned a sake brewery that dates back to 1733 and continues to produce fine sake today. Taught early that sake making is a painstaking fine art, Masataka studied diligently and trained at university as a chemist, preparing to carry on the family trade.
However, Scotch whisky captured the young man’s imagination, and he decided to dedicate his life to whisky.
Given the chance to go to Scotland, Masataka enrolled at the University of Glasgow and became the first Japanese ever to study the art of whisky making. He took chemistry courses at the university and apprenticed at distilleries, learning first-hand from craftsmen and training as a blender — he would later become known as a master blender.
In 1920, Masataka returned to Japan with Jessie Roberta (Rita), whom he had married earlier that year. After joining a company aspiring to make genuine whisky, he succeeded in producing Japan’s first whisky. Masataka’s vision of whisky was formed by his experience in Scotland, and he knew that the right environment was essential. However, it was becoming apparent that in order to produce whisky as he felt it should be produced, he would have to become independent.
Thus in 1934, Masataka established Nikka Whisky and built its first distillery in Yoichi, Hokkaido, which — though inconveniently located — he had always considered to be the ideal Japanese whisky-making site, similar in many ways to the Scottish town where he had studied.
Masataka established Nikka because he was determined to introduce his fellow Japanese to the joys of authentic whisky. In the following decades, as his company developed and whisky became a fixture in Japan, he remained relentlessly passionate about quality. Never did he allow it to be sacrificed in favor of efficiency. In that sense, Masataka Taketsuru, Father of Japanese Whisky, a sake brewer’s son, never truly left his roots.
The young Scotswoman who in 1920 embarked with her Japanese husband on a long voyage to Japan adopted the ways of the distant land. She steadfastly supported her husband throughout their marriage, as he built Nikka and made it flourish, until her passing in 1961. Rita and Masataka Taketsuru are buried together in Yoichi.
How To Find Nikka Yoichi Distillery
If you are planning on visiting the Yoichi distillery you can find using the map provided here. The address for the Yoichi distillery is as follows:
Tours Of Nikka Yoichi Distillery
There are two types of tours available at the Yoichi distillery – Guided and Self-Guided. Both types of guide are free of charge. Please see the two sections below for details on each type.
Guided tours are conducted by a friendly Japanese speaking only guide who will kindly introduce you to the whisky manufacturing process, the history of Nikka Whisky and more. Please be advised that guided tours operate between the hours of 9am and 4.30pm.
Visitors may explore the facilities freely with the use of a guide map between the hours of 9am to 5pm.
Tour Information & Rules Of The Yoichi Distillery
Please be aware of the following rules and information when visiting the Yoichi distillery:
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