In 1918 Masataka Taketsuru, the founder of Nikka Whisky, embarked on a long voyage to Scotland and, after enrolling at Glasgow University, became the first Japanese person ever to study whisky making. He took chemistry courses at the university and apprenticed at distilleries, learning first-hand from craftsmen and received training as a blender. Masataka would later become known as a master blender. After returning to Japan in 1920 Masataka began work for a company who would produce Japan's first whisky. In 1934, Masataka struck out on his own and established Nikka Whisky and built its first distillery in Yoichi, Hokkaido, which he had always considered to be the ideal site in Japan for whisky-making. This was later joined, in 1969, by the Miyagikyo Distillery, also in northern Japan. Yoichi was chosen as the site for Nikka's first distillery as Masataka Taketsuru saw numerous reminders of Scotland - there is clean air, the right humidity for storage / ageing and abundant underground water supplies filtered through a layer of peat. The Yoichi distillery produces rich, peaty and masculine malt. The whisky gets its distinct aroma and body from direct heating distillation, in which the pot stills are heated with finely powdered natural coal, a traditional method that is hardly ever used today, even in Scotland. Fresh and soft, the palate is sweet and sour with a voluptuous texture developing toffee, chocolate and coffee notes.
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