The Makers Of Japanese Whisky

In future blog posts we will be talking a lot about major individuals, past and present, in the Japanese whisky business. But first we thought we’d give you a glimpse of the fun by publishing this post written by Nori, a bartender in Tokyo who knows everything there is to know about the world of Japanese whisky. He writes about three prominent individuals in the business. First is a small article on Seiichi Koshimizu, then we’ll look at Masataka Taketsuru and his friend Iwai.

Meet Seiichi Koshimizu, the chief blender of Suntory. He lives a very disciplined and organized life. Every morning, he wakes up at 6am, leaves his house at 6:55am and arrives at work at 7:04am. For lunch every day, he eats tempura udon; he also makes sure not to drink alcohol after 9pm. He is always in complete control of his emotions, continuously maintaining the same calm demeanor. His discipline and hard work pay off; this is a man you can trust to make high quality whisky for you!

The story of Taketsuru and Iwai

Masataka Taketsuru was born in 1894 to a family that owned a sake brewery in Hiroshima. After graduating Osaka Technical College in 1916, Taketsuru got a job through a classmate at a company called Settu Breweries that produced western alcoholic beverages. The owner of this company was interested in making Japanese whisky, which simply did not exist at the time. He was impressed with Taketsuru and asked him to go to Scotland to learn the art of whisky making, which Taketsuru did.

When Taketsuru returned to Japan, he handed Iwai a report of what he had learned. This report is now known simply as the Taketsuru Report, and the history of whisky making in Japan more or less begins with it. However, Taketsuru opted not to make whisky at Settu Breweries and instead started working for Kotobukiya, later known as Suntory.

Iwai, on the other hand, continued to work for Settu until 1945, when he was invited to work for Hombo Shuzo and tasked to make Japanese whisky. He accepted and established a distillery in Yamanashi, simply following the report made two decades earlier by Taketsuru. This marked the beginning of Mars Whisky.