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.