The Yoichi distillery
Located 30 miles to the west of Sapporo on the island of Hokkaido, the Yoichi distillery never fails to make an impression with its stone walls and red-tiled roof. It unites classicism and aesthetics in a way that only the Japanese know how. It was in 1934 that the founder of the Nikka group built his emblematic distillery on the island of Hokkaido that was once almost completely arid, realising his dream of creating a little plot of Scotland in the land of the rising sun. Yoichi boasts an underground stream filtered through peat: the best water there is for the production of whisky. It also has its own kiln with traditional pagoda chimneys. The kiln hasn’t been in action since the 1970s however. Very traditionally, the distillery used to malt its own barley on site with peat sourced from the Ishikari plains. Nowadays it is imported from Scotland, as the local, highly-subsidised barley is both expensive and of mediocre quality.
Yoichi continues to use coal-fired pot stills, a traditional method that most Scottish distilleries have today abandoned. These onion-shaped, relatively compact stills produce a rich, full-bodied spirit.
Depending on the desires of the master distiller, Yoichi is able to produce a highly peated malt, an unpeated malt or a lightly peated malt, as well as a malt with light, normal or heavy and concentrated aromas, by playing with the quantities of yeast and the fermentation time, a technique that attracts the interest of Scottish master distillers who sometimes struggle to consistently produce just one type of malt! In fact, as Japanese blenders aren’t in the habit of swapping casks between them, each distillery is obliged to produce a range of aromatic profiles. Yoichi thus offers an incredibly rich range united through the common theme of peat and spice.
The visitor centre is a model of perfection. It tells the story of the distillery’s founder, Masataka Taketsuru, and his Scottish wife, Rita. And before you go, it’s hard to resist the numerous limited series sold exclusively on site at the distillery...