When you think of whisky, you typically think of the single malt Scottish whisky sitting in Harvey Spector’s Manhattan office or something Matthew McConaughey drinks in Texas.
You don’t instantly think of Japanese whisky… but that’s changing.
Nikka Whisky was launched in 1940 and was primarily a domestic delicacy until the turn of this millennium. Now it is one of the most prestigious whiskies in the world, earning global accolades on a yearly basis.
And as it turns out, Nikka Whisky has a remarkable story behind its founders.
Japan is a sake country, we all know that. It wasn’t until when a young Japanese man with the burning ambition to make genuine whisky went all the way to Scotland in 1918 to learn the ancient art.
That man is Masataka Takesturu and he is the founder of Nikka Whisky.
The then 24-year-old enrolled at the University of Glasgow and studied organic chemistry in the Scottish capital, before apprenticing at three famous Scotch distilleries – Longmorn, Bo’ness and Hazelburn.
But that’s not why we are here.
The reason we are here is that Takesturu met his wife Jessie Roberta “Rita” Cowan while in Scotland and married her in 1920 before the newlyweds returned to Japan via New York and Seattle.
Now more than a hundred years on, Nikka Whisky has released a limited edition, Apple Brandy, to celebrate what would have been the Taketsuru’s 100th wedding anniversary.
The Yoichi Apple Brandy Finish and the Miyagikyo Apple Brandy Finish have both spent six months in carefully selected 28-year-old apple casks and were created to showcase the unique combination of single malt and apple bandy wood finish.
But back to the story of the mother and father of Japanese whisky.
When they returned to Japan, Masataka was hired by Suntory – the brand that would eventually become Nikka’s major competitor – to direct the building of the Yamazaki Distillery and create Japan’s first genuine whisky. After all, Masataka was the only person who had the skillset in the country at the time.
Once his ten-year contract at Suntory finally lapsed, Masataka did what he had been dreaming about when he packed up his life and moved to Scotland 16 years earlier. They moved north to Hokkaido to build his first distillery, finding an environment with a cool climate, crisp air and the right amount of humidity to create whisky. All the things that make Scottish whisky some of the finest on the planet.
The company started off producing apple products while Masataka finetuned his product over a handful of years. But finally by 1940 – six years after leaving Suntory – Nikka Whisky was born.
Now more than 80 years on, Nikka Whisky is a household name in a crowded global market.
And while there weren’t many reasons to celebrate in 2020, this iconic Japanese brand found one with one hell of an amazing story.
To shop Nikka Whisky in Australia, visit your nearest Dan Murphy’s in-store or online.