WHY: Often considered the Pepsi of Japanese whisky to Suntory’s Coke, Nikka is Japan’s second largest whisky producer, known for its rich and layered whiskies of finesse. The Nikka Coffey Malt whisky is full of buttery biscuit flavors that are so gentle and pleasing it can be hard to stop pouring once you've started. As such a unique expression, American drinkers used to fly to Japan and bring the Nikka Coffey Malt back in their suitcases before it was finally made available to the general market.
HOW: Nikka's Coffey Still at the Miyagikyo Distillery produces its grain whisky, as well as the neutral distillate for the brands gin and vodka labels. But a few months out of the year, Nikka also runs its malted barley mash through the still to create one of the most unique whiskies out there: in essence, a single malt recipe distilled on a column still, rather than a pot still.
WHAT: Nikka was founded in 1940 by Masataka Taketsuru, after having overseen construction of Japan’s first whisky distillery: Yamazaki. Taketsuru was sent to Scotland in 1918 to learn about single malt production, and spent his time interning at the Hazelburn Distillery in Campbeltown. After working a ten year contract with Suntory, he left to build the Yoichi Distillery in 1934. Nikka owns and operates two distilleries: Yoichi Distillery on the island of Hokkaido, and the Miyagikyo Distillery in Sendai. In addition to single malt production, the Miyagikyo Distillery has a large Coffey column still used to make grain whisky for blending, as well as gin and vodka.