Masataka Taketsuru is the father of Japanese whisky. His family owned a sake brewery that dated to 1733. Taketsuru was taught early that sake-making is a painstakingly fine art and he studied diligently, training as a chemist and preparing to carry on the family trade. However, it was Scotch whisky that captured the young man’s imagination and he decided to dedicate his life to it. In 1918, Taketsuru travelled to Scotland, where he learnt the secrets of whisky-making and met his wife Rita who would be the source of his inspiration when creating whisky in Japan.
In 1920, Taketsuru returned to Japan and joined Kotobukiya, a spirits company, to produce the first Japanese whisky. It soon became apparent that to produce whisky the way he felt it should be made, he would have to become independent. In 1934, he established Nikka Whisky and built its first whisky distillery called Yoichi on the island of Hokkaido. This location was chosen as he had always considered it to be ideal for whisky production. The Yoichi distillery produces coastal and delicately peated whiskies, supported by perfectly balanced oak maturation.
Taketsuru’s growing success allowed him to establish a second distillery, Miyagikyo, in 1969 on the main island of Honshu. Miyagikyo distillery, in contrast to Yoichi, produces rich, fruity and elegant whiskies.
In the decades since, Nikka Whisky has become a fixture in Japan and throughout Europe, known for its passion for craftsmanship, quality and flavour. Masataka Taketsuru passed away just 10 years after the construction of Miyagikyo, at the age of 85. He forever remains the founding father of Japanese whisky, and to this day, Taketsuru’s spirit continues to live on through the Nikka blending team, whose quest for excellence in Nikka whiskies perpetuates his memory.
On 2 July 2014, The Nikka Whisky Co celebrated its 80th anniversary and today its whiskies are multi-award winning, having won more than 30 leading industry awards in recent years.
The northern island of Hokkaido is where Taketsuru came across the ideal site for the construction of Yoichi, a distillery built in the purest Scottish tradition. For his first distillery, Masataka Taketsuru sought similar conditions to Scotland, where he had himself learned everything about the process of whisky making.
Full-bodied, smooth. A mellow peat softly coats the aromatic palate at first, growing more powerful with time, as smoke, soot and salty notes transcend the initial nose. The aromas then evolve towards candied citrus fruit (lemon, orange), black liquorice and spices (nutmeg, ginger), and opens up with roots and dried twig aromas. Heady and floral (carnation, iris), it grows increasingly complex. Firm and powerful on the palate. A well-balanced attack gives equal footing to aromas of peat, smoke, spices, fresh fruit (melon, kiwi) and nuts (almond, walnut), which it delivers in spades. The mid-palate starts off with chocolate notes, but the peat soon takes the lead once again.