8. NIKKA (1934)
Masataka Taketsuru Craftmanship
Nikka is one of the leading Japanese whisky comapny founded in 1934 by Masataka Taketsuru after his 10 years working in Yamazaki distillery. Name of Nikka came from Nippon Kaju (It means Japan fruit juice) because they were producing apple juice in their early days duirng waiting whisky cask aging.
They have Yoichi distillery, Miyagikyo distillery and Tochigi plant including aging cellar and cooparage (cask factory). Yoichi distillery is called Niika's highland and Miyagikyo distillery is called Nikka's lowland because of malt whiskey taste in those distillery. They are also producing grain whisky by coffey column still in Miyagikyo distillery.
They focus on more product quality than business so they were fastest to install Coffey column still but slow to start makers Bar. As a result they are smaller than Suntory but strong presence in premium segment.
1934 Yoichi distillery
Yoichi distillery was founded by Masataka Taketsuru in 1934 for his ideal whisky making after 10 years working in Kotobukiya (Suntory today).
His target was peated whisky which he learned in Scotland and he made white label as 1st whisky from Yamazaki distillery in 1929 but it couldn't get success in market because peated flavor was unfamiliar with Japanese.
Environmental around Yoichi distillery is similar with Scotland and it was reason why Taketsuru Masataka chose this place for his ideal whisky making. Yoichi distillery is keeping authentic metohd and facility like coal power direct heating, warm tube condenser and single yeast.
As a result Yoishi distillery whisky is porwerful with rich peat.
1969 Miyagikyo distillery
Miyagikyo distillery was founded in 1969 for coming competition with import whisky because whisky trade had been agreed to liberalize/reduce import tax drastically from 1971/1972 at GATT Kennedy round in 1964-1967. So that they needed 2nd key malt whisky to make higher quality whisky with more flavor complex.
Location select was finalized by testing local river water quality. It was that Masataka Taketsuru tried Black Nikka with that water.
Miyagikyo whisky is elegant and fruity.
Coffey column stills were transferred from Nishinomiya plant in 1999 and Miyagikyo distillery became very unique distillery which has both pot still for malt whisky and column still for grain whisky.
Nishinomiya plant (1959-)
Whisky distillation (1962-1999)
Nishinomiya plant was originally part of Asahi Shuzo which was part of Asahi Beer (But it's different from sake brewery Asahi shuzo today) for bottling to local market.
Coffey column still was installed in 1962 and started grain whisky production to proviude with Nikka which was sister company of Asahi Shuzo under Asahi Beer. It was merged by Nikka in 1969.
Caffey column stills were transferred to Miyagikyo distillery in 1999 and then it is producing cans product today.
Tochigi plant (1977-)
Tochigi plant was built for aging cellar, marriage and bottling. It has also cooparage (cask factory) today. It is said that distillation had been carried out until 2003 but no concrete info.
Nikka distilleries story
Nikka Coffy column still
Nikka is strongly promoting malt whisky, grain whisky, gin and vodka distilled by their Coffey column stills today
Coffey column still was developed by Aeneas Coffey in 1830. It is very early developed column still and inferior in productivity to the latest type such as Super arospas column still but it can produce whisky with material original flavor. There are less than 10 Coffey column stills operating in the world today and Nikka has 2 of them in Miyagikyo distillery.
These Coffey column stills were requested by Masataka Taketsuru and originally installed in Nishinomiya plant in 1963 which was sister company Asahi shuzo and Nikka was buying whisky distilled there because Nikka financial situation was not enough good to buy those Coffey column still in that time. Nishinomiya plant was merged by Nikka in 1969 and Coffey column stills were trasnferred to Miyagikyo in 1999.
Nikka Key Whisky Recipe
Nikka has 4 key material whisky in Japan today. Yoichi malt, Miyagikyo malt, Coffey malt and Coffey grain.
They use these 4 as key material whisky to make several blended whisky and pure malt whisky.
Date and From the barrel looks same but From the barrel uses marriage aging which means 2nd cask aging after blening malt whisky and grain whisky which have already aged in cask.
Tsuru and Nikka G&G
Nikka days is only in Europe and successor product of Nikka Blended.
Date is only in Miyagi prefecture where Miyagikyo distillery is located.
Coffey series bottle
Nikka has been Coffey series bottle and promoted Coffey column stills in Miyagikyo distillery as their sdvantage since 2012. There are 4 products distilled by Coffey column still in the world market today.
They started supplying Coffey Grain in 2013 and Coffey Malt in 2014. Both bottles were stopped to be supplied between 2019 Mar and 2019 Nov due to too high demands and shortage of stock. In fact, Coffey series whisky targets EU market because they released these in EU 1 year earlier than Japan. So it means Coffey Grain in 2012 and Coffey Malt in 2013 in EU. In add, they released only 3,000 bottle of Coffey Malt 12Y in 2007 as trial and it's only for Japan and EU.
They also started to supply Coffey Gin using Japanese unique papper Sansho and Coffey Vodka.
Nikka's parent company Asahi beer is producing white spirits Sazan by blending of white spirits distilled by Nikka coffey column stills and other.
Yoichi distillery pot still
Coal power direct heating
Yoichi distillery is only one distillery using coal power direct heating pot still in the world today. It's quite old fashion style and almost all pot stills in the owrld were replaced to steam power indirect heating type after 1960s. There are a few distilleries using direct heating type but those pot stills are gas power.
Coal power drect heating is most difficult pot still to contron but it can create powerful and rich peated flavor whisky.
In add, their pot stills have thick rice straw rope on the neck which is sanctuary barrier symbol of Shinto, Japanese traditional animism. Pot stills in Miyagikyo distillery also have it.
Why Shimenawa on pot stills in Nikka distileries
Pot stills in all Nikka whisky distillery (Yoichi and Miyagikyo) have Shimenawa which is barrier symbol strew rope of Japanese animizum Shinto.
But why do their pot stills have it?
At first, I need to mention to that Nikka founder Taketsuru's parents' family had the sake brewery as their family business. There are Taketsuru Shuzo (Sake brewery) in Hiroshima even today.
Sake breweries put Shimenawa in their brewing workshop because that they had belived that fermentation was done by God till micro scope arrival at Japan in 16th century.
Acocrding to this tradition, Taketsuru put Shimenawa on pot still for God bless to the good whisky instead of Sake.
Otaru is historical port city in Hokkaido, north main island of Japan. It is famous of beautiful canal and glass crafts for tourist today.
There are whisky with the name of Otaru by 2 different companies. One is OEM limited bottle made by Nikka for Kitaichi glass and Tanaka Shuzo in Otaru city in 1996. There are Otaru 11Y and 16Y.
The other is local limited bottle made by Sapporo Shusei and it seems to be same with Sapporo SS. It means that it made from import bulk.
Nikka and Apple
Yoichi distillery was founded in 1934. In the beginning, they were producing apple juice in parallel for cash management during whisky aging. But it was not good sales because of over quality with too high price like 100% and turbidity appearance by pectin due to non-filtering production process.
Masataka's wife Rita suggested not only cider but also apple jam and apple sauce which is traditional Scottish food. According to her suggestion, they produced jelly, ketchup adn etc.
It is not so much known but Nikka is producing cider, apple wine and apple brandy even today. Their apple liquor products are produced in Hirosaki distillery in Aomori prefecture which is most famous apple production area in Japan.
Nikka also release single malt apple brandy cask finish sometime.
Super Nikka for Rita
Super Nikka is the blended whisky developed by Masataka Taketsuru together with his son Takeshi Taketsuru in 1962 for his Scottish wife Rita who died in 1961.
She said that she would like to live together with him to support his big dream which means making real whisky in Japan when she accepted his propose. Her death made him deep disappointed.
After some time of despair, he cameback to make his best whisky in his life. He choose best malt whisky from all storage casks of Yoichi distillery. The glass bottle was handmade by the most famous Japanese crystal glass factory, Kagami crystal which is supplying glassware to Japanese imperial familiy. Therefor annual supply was only 1000 bottles.
It took revision change twice and current Super Nikka is made from malt whisky of both Yoichi distilelry and Miyagikyo distillery with coffey grain whisky.
Bottle by Nikka
Pure Malt series
Super Nikka Vatted Pure Malt
Gold & Gold
The Blend of Nikka
From the barrel
Kita Joryuzyo(North distillery)
The Chiba blend