In Yoichi, a town in the Yoichi District, Shiribeshi Subprefecture, Hokkaido, Japan is one of Japan’s top whisky maker and main distillery: Nikka Whisky Yoichi Distillery.
Founded by Masataka Taketsuru in 1934, the history of Nikka Whisky began here in Yoichi and the rest is history.
How to get to Yoichi Distillery
The Nikka Whisky Distillery is located just a few steps west of Yoichi Station on the JR Hakodate Line. Yoichi Station can be reached in about 25 minutes by local trains from Otaru or in about one hour from Sapporo.
Yoichi Distillery Tour
You can visit the vast grounds of the distillery, where the original stone buildings of the factory and Taketsuru’s former home still stand. Some of the equipment on display, like the large copper pot still, are still used to this day.
Admission is free. Opening hours are from 9:00am – 5:00pm.
There are guided distillery tours (only in Japanese). Tour hours are from 9:00am – noon and from 1:00pm – 3:30pm. Tour lengths are approximately 70 minutes (tour of the whisky production process and tasting).
In order to prevent the spread of COVID-19, some restrictions on the distillery tours have been implemented.
Yoichi Distillery sits on over 132,000 acres of land.
At Latitude 43.2°N. The harsh and rich nature in the north satisfying everything needed for whisky making.
Masataka Taketsuru, the first Japanese who mastered whisky making in Scotland, valued the climate and natural features of the north. Yoichi, the place chosen by Masataka was close to the sea, surrounded by mountains on three sides and in many ways similar to Highland in Scotland. A cold climate with an appropriate humidity, crisp clean air and fresh water – everything necessary for his ideal whisky was available. The proximity to the sea is one of the distinctive features of Yoichi. The sea breeze gives a briny hint to the whisky during the maturation.
Direct coal-fired distillation. The tradition inherited from the foundation.
Masataka set a pot still using direct coal-fire when he built the Yoichi Distillery. This still was similar to pot stills at Longmorn Distillery where Masataka had the first practical training in Scotland. This traditional coal-fired distillation is hardly seen today as it is difficult to control temperature and requires highly skilled craftsmen. However, the distillation process at Yoichi has remained very traditional to this day. The characteristics of Yoichi Single Malt such as boldness and toasty burnt flavors are unique features of this distillation.
In addition to learning about whisky making; during the tour, you can also explore and learn more about the founder and the history of the distillery.
In addition to the Rita House and the former residence of the Taketsurus, the whisky museum exhibits many materials about the history of Masataka & Rita and Nikka Whisky.
At the end of the tour, stop by the Nikka Kaisan to sample some delicious whisky and more. Visitors are given three samples of various alcoholic beverages. For those who are not of age, apple juice and other non-alcoholic drinks are also available. Finish off your tour with a quick visit to the gift shop where Nikka Whisky chocolates, bottles and memorabilia are for sale.
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