Nikka is a Japanese whisky company that dates back to 1934. The company’s founder, Masataka Taketsuru, is widely considered to be the father of Japanese whisky, with distilling having run in the family for generations before the company was founded.
- Masataka Taketsuru, the founder of Nikka, is considered the father of Japanese whisky.
- The company was founded in 1934.
- Taketsuru was married to a Scottish woman who moved with him to Japan to pursue his dream of distilling whisky.
- Nikka has a Coffey range that includes malt whisky, gin, and vodka.
- The company is now run by Taketsuru’s son, Takeshi.
Masataka Taketsuru was born in 1894 into a sake distilling family that resided in Hiroshima. In 1918, the young Taketsuru embarked on a trip to Scotland to learn about the process of making Scotch whisky. He was fascinated by whisky and was excited to learn more. He enrolled at the University of Glasgow, taking chemistry classes. He also apprenticed at multiple distilleries. These distilleries include Longmorn, Hazelburn, and James Calder.
Taketsuru met and married a Scottish woman named Rita, and in late 1920 the couple returned to Japan. In 1923 he signed a 10-year contract with Kotobukiya Limited (Suntory). This position saw him direct in the construction of Yamazaki, the first whisky distillery in Japan, and subsequently, become involved in the production of Yamazaki whisky.
Taketsuru left Kotobukiya in March 1934, and later in the year established his own company: Dai Nippon Kaju Co,. Limited (later Nikka). The company was based in Yoichi in Hokkaido. Yoichi Distillery started distillation in 1936. In 1940 the first Nikka Whisky was launched.
In 1949, Masataka Taketsuru brought his nephew and adopted son, Takeshi Taketsuru into the business. In 1952, the name of the company was changed to The Nikka Whisky Distilling Co, Limited, and the company was bought by Asahi Group Holdings in 1954. Rita Taketsuru died in 1961 at the age of 64.
In 1963, a Coffey still was imported from Scotland and installed at Asahi Breweries; Nishinomiya plant to produce grain whisky. A second still was installed in 1966. A bottling plant was built in 1967. In 1969, Miyagikyo distillery was completed and began distillation. Another distillery, Tochigi, was built in 1977.
In 1979, Masataka Taketsuru died, leaving the running of his company to his son, Takeshi. Masataka and his wife are buried together in Yoichi on Hokkaido. The business has expanded substantially since then. 1985 saw the release of Nikka From the Barrel, and in 1989 the “Yoichi” single malt and the “Sendai” single malt were launched. Also in 1989, Nikka purchased Ben Nevis Distillery.
2000 saw the release of the Taketsuru Pure Malt, in honour of Masataka Taketsuru, the father of Japanese whisky.
In 2001, Nikka whisky was imported to Europe through Ben Nevis distillery, giving Europe the first take of Japanese whisky.
2014 saw the release of a Coffey grain and a Coffey malt. In 2017, the Coffey range was completed by the inclusion of Coffey gin and Coffey vodka. Nikka Days was launched in 2018.
Nikka Owned Brands and Distilleries
- Yoichi Distillery
- Miyagikyo Distillery
- Ben Nevis Distillery
- Yoichi Single Malt
- Miyagikyo Single Malt
- From The Barrel
- Taketsuru Pure Malt
- Coffey Malt
- Coffey Grain
- Pure Malt Red
- Pure Malt Black
- Pure Malt White
- All Malt
Japanese whisky is undergoing some tough times, with many big-name malts such as Nikka 12, Suntory Hakushu, Hibiki, and Nikka Coffey Grain being discontinued. It was announced in January 2020 that Nikka is planning to discontinue Taketsuru Pure Malt 17, 21, and 25. These expressions were created in celebration of Nikka’s founder, Masataka Taketsuru.
The many discontinuations are a result of depleted stocks due to the popularity of Japanese whisky booming worldwide. Whilst this seems like a good thing, depleted stocks mean not being able to keep up with demand. There is a possibility that stocks will bounce back, and hopefully we will not have to bid goodbye to anymore wonderful Japanese whiskies.