Having long produced alcohol, principally from rice, the Japanese first discover whisky in 1853 with the arrival of American commodore Matthew Perry in Tokyo bay. At the end of the 19th Century, several Japanese companies already attempt to produce this spirit, but the first trials made from rice or corn are unsuccessful.
In 1918, Masataka Taketsuru, son of a sake brewing family, is recruited by the Settsu Shuzo Company to produce the first authentic Japanese whisky. With a background in chemistry, the young man decides to leave for Scotland, in the aim of discovering the secrets of whisky production. A few months after his arrival, Taketsuru meets Rita Cowan, with whom he immediately falls in love with. Rita becomes his wife, but also his muse.
Two years later, the couple returns to Japan. In 1922, his employer Settsu Shuzo goes bankrupt following a stock market crash. Taketsuru then joins the Kotobukiya group, a beer industry giant later renamed Suntory, for who he builds the first Japanese distillery in 1924.
Some years later, Rita will inspire him to realize his dream: build his very own distillery. The northern island of Hokkaido is where Taketsuru finds the ideal site for the construction of Yoichi. It is established in 1934.
Just before the Second World War, Masataka Taketsuru founds the Dai Nippon Kaju company, meaning the “great Japanese juice company”. Indeed, for the first 8 years, while the spirits mature in oak casks, a fruit juice activity is put into place made from the local Hokkaido apples. He finally adopts the name Nikka Whisky in 1952, a combination of NI-ppon and KA-ju.
His growing success allows him to establish a second distillery in 1969 on the main island of Honshu. The Miyagikyo distillery is built in 1969, in the heart of the natural environment, from which the whiskies draw their softness, their elegance, and purity. The Miyagkyo distillery is the presence of two patent stills, also named “Coffey” (the name of its inventor) on the same site as the malt distillery. Although these whiskies do not enter into the Miygikyo Single Malts, they are an important component in all of Nikka’s blended whiskies.
Gold Medal, International Spirits Challenge 2013