It’s the story of a whisky born thanks to a love encounter… Masataka Taketsuru comes from a Japanese family producing saké. After the arriving in the Tokyo bay area in 1853 of the Commodore Matthew Perry with an unknown beverage, whisky, Japanese people are going to try to reproduce it. Traditionally, Japanese are making alcohol with rice but whisky it’s something else ! Masataka San is hired in 1918 by the Settsu Shuzo firm in order to find the secret of whisky.
But how to do ? Masataka San is going to leave Japan for Scotland. Magic will appear: he will meet Rita Cowan and fall in love with her. They will marry and return in Japan two years later. In 1922, Settsu Shuzo firm closes its doors after the Stock Exchange crash and Masataka San will be hired by Suntory. He will build the first whisky distillery in Japan in 1924.
Rita, spouse and muse, pushed her husband to realize his dream: to build his own distillery… Here is their story.
“If you’re searching for the river’s spring, you will find it in the water drops on the moss” Japanese proverb
In 1934, it’s on the Hokkaïdo island that Masataka San is going to build the Yoichi distillery in the purest Scottish tradition. The distillery is not so far from the city of Sapporo well-known for its hard winter climate. Just before the Second World War, the Dai Nippon Kaju firm (‘the big fabric of Japanese juice’) is created: whiskies are in oak barrels for the 8th first years and during this time Masataka San is going to develop the juice production. In 1952, the Nikka Whisky name is definitively adopted (mix of NIppon and KAju). Success is so important that a second distillery is built in 1969 on the Honshu island.
The Miyagikyo distillery is the most interesting in our story… In fact, the Honshu island climate is really different of Hokkaido. The Miyagi region, where is located the distillery, is surrounded by forests and hills. Air is pure and the water is crystalline : everything convinced Masataka San to come in the region. In the contrary of the Yoichi distillery, Miyagikyo get the last technologies: precision and rigor, softness and purity are the key words.
There is a particularity at Miyagikyo : there are two ‘coffey’ stills. What’s that ? Created in 1830 by Aeneas Coffey, a French-Irish guy, this technology allows to Scottish to surpass Irish. The classic Still (Column Still) is doing two distillations to create Single Malt. The Coffey Still is doing only one distillation. Moreover Single Grain Whiskies are for insiders: the bottling is really rare (different cereals but one distillation, so no blend). Usually the Single Grain is part of a blend and is the basis for malt. Traditionally, it’s made with wheat, but the Nikka Coffey Grain Whisky is created with corn which gives a smooth and very intense mouth.
Masataka Taketsuru died at the age of 85, 10 years after the creation of the second distillery. He will stay forever the father of Japanese whisky. Today, Nikka Whisky is owned by the famous firm Asahi and is really present in Europe, where everything began.
Nikka Coffey Grain Whisky – 45%
Nice gold limpid which has got small beautiful drops. The nose is on honey and is really powerful with fruity notes of mandarin and pear. It’s quite masculine but very aromatic… Then appear a lovely wooded with coconut and vanilla flavors. Progressively, nougat and chestnut come to light. The mouth is straight but ample. Evolution seems fresh and the middle of the mouth is fruity (mandarin and pear again) then changes to liquorice, zan and aniseed. Finish is long on candied lemon. A nice whisky.
You have to count 45 euros the bottle (average).