Miyagikyo Nikka Whisky Distillery
Japan’s high-spirited secret.
Whisky lovers take note. Surrounded by mountains and built between two rivers lies Miyagikyo Distillery of Nikka Whisky, one of the foremost producers of whisky in Japan. This refreshing Scotch whisky puts Japan on the map for having one of the top-notch spirits in the world.
The Miyagikyo distillery is located in northern Japan’s Miyagi Prefecture not all that far from its capital of Sendai. You can experience a guided tour to discover Nikka’s humble beginnings and the process of making whisky — and it includes free tastings.
A brief history
The distillery was established in 1969, making it the second distillery by “The Father of Japanese Whisky,” Masataka Taketsuru. The first one, Yoichi Distillery, in Hokkaido, was established a little over 30 years before that.
Once the tour finishes, you can savor free whisky.
Born from a family of sake (alcohol) brewers, Taketsuru was very much fascinated by Scotch whisky. After he apprenticed in Scottish distilleries, he came back to Japan with a vision to produce high-quality Japanese whisky with his supportive Scottish wife, Rita.
The Miyagikyo location came about because Taketsuru wanted to experiment more with blending. Thus, he needed another distillery to achieve this goal. When he tasted the water from the Hirose and Nikkagawa rivers in Miyagi, it is said he knew that was the right location to open his second factory. Its tranquil mountainous location, cool climate, fresh air and water were the elements needed for making soft malt whisky.
The mesmerizing smell of distilled grain will instantly captivate you as you enter the distillery. At the waiting area, you can see Nikka’s various awards and watch videos (with English subtitles) about Taketsuru’s journey in fulfilling his vision.
Next, the tour guide will lead the way to various buildings where you can get a glimpse at how whisky is manufactured. Although demanding, Nikka still uses the same method that Taketsuru utilized before, hence their products’ distinctive flavor.
The tour is only in Japanese. However, there are audio headsets in English, Chinese, and Korean to help foreign visitors further understand the history and distillery process. Apart from that, you can also access the foreign guide (English) or grab one of their English pamphlets.
Once the tour finishes, you can savor free whisky, apple wine and non-alcoholic beverages at the tasting corner. If you want more, you can buy shots at the bar or a bottle as a souvenir. Some whisky at the bar may not be available at the shop because they’re limited edition, like the Date Blended Whisky (named after the historic figure, Masamune Date).
Miyagikyo Distillery offers the chance to experience the art of making whisky in a stunning natural setting and admire Taketsuru’s struggle and success in perfecting Nikka.