ultramarinus – beyond the sea

NIKKA YOICHI DISTILLERY (余市蒸溜所), Yoichi (余市), Hokkaido (北海道), Japan, 2019.06.23

Day 9 (1/2).

In recent years, the demand for Japanese whisky has skyrocketed worldwide, as many believe they have become the best in the world.  The hype originated from 2001, when Whisky Magazine honored Nikka’s 10-Year Yoichi as its “Best of the Best.  Global interest continues to grow as Japanese whisky continued to pick up international awards, including the world’s best whisky award given to Suntory’s Yamazaki Sherry Cask 2013 by Whisky Bible in 2015.   The story of Nikka whisky began in 1934 when Masataka Taketsuru (竹鶴 政孝) established his distillery in Yoichi, a location in Hokkaido that Taketsuru believed would best resemble the conditions of Scotland, the home of the famous scotch whisky.  For the locals, Nikka Distillery in Yoichi is better known for the story of Masataka Taketsuru and his Scottish wife Rita, which has been retold in 2014 by a popular TV drama Massan made by the national broadcasting company NHK.

Born in 1894 in Takehara Hiroshima to a sake brewing family, Taketsuru traveled to Scotland in December 1918 and enrolled in University of Glasgow to study organic chemistry, and also took apprenticeship at various distillery facilities.  In January 1920, he married Jessie Roberta Cowan (Rita) despite opposition from both families.  In November 1920, they moved back to Japan and was hired by Kotobukiya (now Suntory) to set up Japan’s first malt whisky distillery known as Yamazaki Distillery (山崎蒸溜所) in Shimamoto, Osaka.  Suntory refused to move the facility to Hokkaido, where Taketsuru believed was more similar to Scotland.  As a result, Taketsuru left Suntory and established his own distillery in Yoichi with Rita in 1934.  Nowhere is better than Nikka Yoichi Distillery to learn more about the story of Taketsuru and Rita, where their house and office were preserved and put on display at the distillery museum.  The self guided tour of the facility allowed us to check out the buildings for various processes of whisky distillery, houses and offices of Taketsuru and Rita, a museum housing historical artefacts of the facility, and a tasting house and souvenir shop.

DSC_6395It was just a short walk from Yoichi JR Station to the distillery.  The facility main gate was already full of visitors when we arrived at 9:15am.

DSC_6397A sign of “Nikka Whisky” was erected for photo backdrop for visitors.

DSC_6436The facility is consisted of a number of historical buildings.

DSC_6424Coal fire is still used to heat up the old copper stills at the distillery.

DSC_6416Staff keeps on adding coal into the furnace.

DSC_6418Yoichi Distillery is claimed to be the last remaining facility still using coal fire for their whisky stills.

DSC_6427Old buildings at the facility have been converted into exhibition areas to tell the story of whisky making.

DSC_6429Display of oak for making of traditional wood barrels.

DSC_6432A few wood barrels are put on display for visitors to take photos.

DSC_6438The former residence and office of Taketsuru and Rita were well preserved.

DSC_6484Former residence of the Taketsuru couple.

DSC_6445Former residence of the Taketsuru couple.

DSC_6466Barrel warehouse

DSC_6471Entrance into the museum building.

DSC_6479One of the two tasting areas in the museum.

DSC_6480The story of Masataka and Rita Taketsuru was told in the museum with artefacts and photos.

DSC_6482At the end, we had a chance for a free tasting with three glasses of alcohol: single malt Yoichi, Super Nikka, and Apple Wine.  We could choose to add ice, water or apple juice to the alcohol.

IMG_0535After a delightful visit of Yoichi Distillery, we returned to Otaru to pick up our backpacks and moved on to our final destination, Sapporo.

* * *

Introduction
HOKKAIDO ROAD TRIP, Hokkaido (北海道)

Day 1 – from Tokyo to Shiretoko Peninsula
Day 1.1 TSUKIJI OUTER MARKET (築地場外市場)
Day 1.2 ARRIVAL IN SHIRETOKO, Utoro (ウトロ)

Day 2 – Utoro
Day 2.1 SHIRETOKO FIVE LAKES (知床五湖)
Day 2.2 UTORO FISHERMAN’S WIVES CO-OPERATIVE DINER (ウトロ漁協婦人部食堂)
Day 2.3 FUREPE FALLS (フレペの滝)

Day 3 – Rausu
Day 3.1 RUSA FIELD HOUSE (ルサフィールドハウス)
Day 3.2 JUN NO BANYA (純の番屋)

Day 4 – Rausu
Day 4.1 MOUNT RAUSU (羅臼岳)
Day 4.2 FANTASTIC ORCAS, Nemuro Strait (根室海峡)

Day 5 – Lake Mashu & Lake Akan
Day 5.1 SUNRISE AT LAKE MASHU (摩周湖)
Day 5.2 MOUNT MASHU TRAIL (摩周岳) , Teshikaga (弟子屈)
Day 5.3 SILENT NIGHT AT LAKE AKAN (阿寒湖)

Day 6 – On the road from Lake Akan to Furano
Day 6.1 FISHERMEN BELOW MISTY OAKAN (雄阿寒岳), Lake Akan (阿寒湖)
Day 6.2 TREATS OF OBIHIRO (帯広), Tokachi (十勝)
Day 6.3 ARRIVING IN FURANO (富良野)

Day 7 Furano & Biei
Day 7.1 LAVENDER BUDS, Nakafurano (中富良野)
Day 7.2 FARM TOMITA (ファーム富田), Nakafurano (中富良野)
Day 7.3 BI.BLE, Biei (美瑛)
Day 7.4 PATCHWORK ROAD & PANORAMA ROAD, Biei (美瑛)
Day 7.5 NINGLE TERRACE (ニングルテラス)

Day 8 – from Furano to Otaru
Day 8.1 CHURCH ON THE WATER (水の教会), Hoshino Resorts Tomamu (星野リゾート トマム)
Day 8.2 HILL OF THE BUDDHA (頭大仏), Makomanai Takino Cemetery (真駒内滝野霊園)
Day 8.3 SEAFOOD, CANAL, & HISTORY, Otaru (小樽)
Day 8.4 RAINY NIGHT IN OTARU, Otaru (小樽)

Day 9 – Yochi & Sapporo
Day 9.1 NIKKA YOICHI DISTILLERY (余市蒸溜所), Yoichi (余市)
Day 9.2 SOUP CURRY NIGHT

Day 10 – Sapporo
10.1 OKKAIDO SHRINE (北海道神宮 )
10.2 MORIHICO COFFEE (森彦珈琲本店)
10.3 KITAKARO SAPPORO HONKAN (北菓楼札幌本館)
10.4 SATURDAYS CHOCOLATE
10.5 GOTSUBO OYSTER BAR(五坪)
10.6 MOUNT MOIWA (藻岩山) & RAMEN HARUKA (ラーメン悠)

Day 11 – Sapporo
11.1 FORMER HOKKAIDO GOVERNMENT OFFICE (北海道庁旧本庁舎)
11.2 RED STAR & GENGKIS KHAN, Sapporo Beer Museum (サッポロビール株式会社)

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