Part 2 of 4 on Japanese Whisky.
In the early 1900’s a young sake Jedi, Masataka Taketsuru, ventured from Japan on a journey half way around the world to land of the Scots. During his time in Scotland, Taketsuru studied chemistry, consumed much of the countries whisky, and learned the art of distillation. He also fell in love with a beautiful Scottish woman, Rita Cowan, who I envision was a red head but no proof as I could only locate ancient black and white photos. After Taketsuru’s apprenticeship at two distilleries, the couple traveled back to Japan to forever change the country’s whisky scene.
In 1923 Japanese importer, Shinjiro Torii, was seeking an artisan to work at his new Suntory distillery. In walks Taketsuru. Together these two gentlemen make up the fathers of Japanese Whisky. With his distillation background in Scotland, Taketsuru quickly went work producing whisky with bold, peat characters that he was accustomed to. The whisky hit the market in 1929 with limited fanfare. The locals loved their sakes bombs...peat bombs take it too far I guess!
Torri, on the other hand, had other thoughts on the matter. He aimed for a more balanced whisky that could attract a broader consumer base. 5 years after their initial product launch the two parted ways. The great Japanese Whisky divide. Torri proceeded with a launch of milder whisky, Kakubin, quickly gaining local fanfare. Taketsuru, said forget you sissy whisky drinkers, and ventured north to open a distillery in Yoichi to make his traditional peated spirit. The investors backing Taketsuru’s move were Nikka Distilling Company.
Fast forward 80 years to the present….
Torri’s Suntory and Taketsuru’s Nikka are still the two big Japanese whisky labes of the country. A small whisky duo became two very different master sensei’s…all because of a difference in opinion for bold, smoky juice!
Boom! Another shot knowledge!