Nikka distilleries were established by a man called Masataka Taketsuru, who established the company’s first distillery in Yoichi in Hokkaido in 1934. The Miyagikyo distillery in Sendai was established in 1969. Interestingly, before launching his own company, Taketsuru helped to establish Japan’s first distillery for the company that would become Suntory. There’s a short history on Nikka’s website if you want to read more.
The factory area was huge and we had to walk quite a while after the first gate until we arrived to the tourist area. The first stop was the distillery’s souvenir shop. I thought it resembled a retirement home, except that it was much more fun. The shop and its surroundings were crowded by old men and women, and judging by the way many of the old boys wobbled around, they had already had a taste of the local produce. Although there were a few visitors who weren’t quite that old, we were without a doubt the youngest people there.
The next tour was just about to start when we got to the information counter so we signed up and joined our group. The tour lasted about 30 minutes. It started with a presentation about the history of the distillery and then our guide took us around the distillery and explained the process of making whiskey.
After the tour we finally got to the good part – tasting Nikka’s products. During the tasting two Japanese men from our group, an older gentleman and a guy in his 40s, suddenly started a conversation with us. The younger man declared that he loves alcohol – and he probably did, because he told us that was going to visit a sake brewery the next day. After finishing our drinks we went back to the shop to buy something for the folks back home. In the shop, we were pleasantly surprised to see a bottle of 21 year-old Taketsuru waiting for us at the entrance! In 2009, the Whisky Magazine ranked the 21 old Taketsuru the best blended malt whiskey in the world, and it is manufactured right there at Miyagikyô distillery. it wasn’t a cheap bottle, but being one of the finest whiskey’s I’ve ever tasted, it was worth the price. And actually, compared to the price in Europe, it was quite a bargain.
After the shopping spree, we headed back to the station with our new family member and it just happened that the train back to Sendai arrived to the station as we entered the platform. We had thought of visiting Matsushima and the famous islands in the area, so we took a train from Sendai station to Hon-Shiogama, but it turned out that we had missed the last boat ride. Since we’d traveled all the way to Hon-Shiogama, we had dinner there and then headed back to Sendai. Matsushima would’ve probably been beautiful, but after spending such a wonderful day with whiskey, missing Matsushima didn’t feel that bad. After a light dinner we returned to Sendai once more and took the bullet train back to Tokyo.
And if anyone’s counting, with the fourth day over, we’ve traveled 885,5 kilometers by train.