Monday, August 11, 2014

Journey to Nikka Whisky Distillery, Yoichi

Morning rush hour in Sapporo Train Station isn't as bad as in Tokyo. In Tokyo I literally see station attendants using their "Paddle pop" Paddle pushing commuters into the already crammed like sardines -ikan bilis - har mai - ppl into the train. Monkey thought it was only on youtube that things like this happened but to be able to see it live in Tokyo made it so surreal.

So at Sapporo Train Station, there isn't any shinkansen aka bullet train, there's not many lines and the subway is a pretty simple system. Ok ok if u compared it with KL in Malaysia...ours is like stone age train line system OK?

our stand-in Captain for the day giving out briefing and we were trying hard to concentrate.

A week ago, JS conveyed his interest on visiting a whisky distillery about 1.5 hours from Sapporo. So he wrote in to the them and as Japanese culture...all are welcome. Our Sapporo Gourmet group consisted of 12 people...and the nite before, we split ourselves into two. Whoever that wanna join the whisky educational tour please congregate at the lobby by 8.15am.

Everyone was early...around 8am we already have almost the entire group downstairs with Dr. Epicurean carrying his glasses and bottles of wines.

Monkey: "What's this for? Breakfast in the train?"
Dr. Epicurean: "For our sushi lunch later...after the whisky tour."
Monkey errrrrrr -_-"
Papa Bear: "Guys....we have yet to secure reservation for lunch so....let's not take chances with all these beautiful wines."
I swear I could see the deep disappointment in Dr. Epicurean's face. With his head bowed low, he walked back to the lifts to his room....sadness shrouded him...coz there's not gonna be drinks for the in while the Sun is up. We definitely having lots of drinks when the sun is down!!!!

Monkey was given stricter instruction to follow bcoz she's the nottiest :P

Aye aye Captain I will stick to you like glue for the rest of the day. Nothing can put us apart.....and I was wrong~~~~~

*PEEETTTTT and wave and wave*
I like how the train station attendant does his Aussie Salute. To the left, to the right in such beautiful smooth sways and swings and yet so so so precise. Soon our train chucks its way to Western Hokkaido.

Remember how I said Monkey gonna stick close to Papa Bear. Yeah not even this gonna separate us!!! It's an amazement how Japanese have mastered the Zen art of power naps in the train and not miss their station!!!

So this person swayed and leaned onto me.....and then....

finally onto Papa Bear. I m gonna tell MW Maho u've got an unidentified new gf in Hokkaido!!!. Hmph~~~~

No fingers near the doors...else u gonna turn into this poor creature with sausage-liked finger. Bahahahahaha.

After almost an hour, we transited at Otaru and changed into another train. The later 30 mins train brought us to the town of Yoichi. Once we arrived at Yoichi little train station, Papa Bear calmed all his excited entourage down. There were a lot of chitters chatters and he needed to get his bearing.

Monkey: "Papa bear, dunnit bearing......look!!!!"
and pointed to the castle liked building just 2 roads across the train station.

The main entrance to the distillery.

The two famed whisky brands in Japan are Nikka and Suntory. Both are very closely related. In fact, Nikka is a breakaway fraction of Suntory Whisky or VICE VERSA depending on how you look at it.

Okie a lil bit of introduction here.....the founder of Nikka Mr. Masataka Taketsuru was the FIRST japanese who studied the art of whisky making in Scotland in 1918. It was in Scotland that he swept Rita off her feet. They fell in love, got married and returned to Japan. Once back Taketsuru was commissioned to build Suntory Yamazaki distillery near Kyoto.

Being the Father of Japanese Whisky, it didn't end there. Taketsuru san left Suntory once his 10 years contract was up and built his very own distillery in Hokkaido. But why Hokkaido? to him this location has got all the elements, climate and geographical location *in terms of latitude* that resembles Glasgow, Scotland. So it's perfect for making whisky.

Soon the excited entourage registered themselves and all thanks to Papa Bear who's Japanese, the communication part was so so so so much easier. As usual all tours in Japan are free. Free things are the best things in the world ain't it? hehehehehe

Today, Nikka has got 2 distilleries. One here in Yoichi and the other at Miyagikyo in Honshu. There is a river nearb. Because of this river...which is cooler and flows into the warmer sea, it gave rise to mist and fog which increases the humidity around this area and that ladies & gentlemen is required in the whisky making process.

One cannot help but realised the buildings here are of very Scottish influenced. It was built in 1934 and most of them are at its original forms. The above is the kilning tower, where malts are dried inside with burning pieces of peat.

Peat used for smoking the barley malt. A smell most Malaysians in Klang Valley will recognize......yes, the smell of the haze!!! LOL

Originally the peat was gathered from the local peat bog nearby. These peats were burned to dry the malt barley to give it the distinctive special smoky nose.

The tall stills where distillation takes place. The shape and size of the stills will determine the final taste and smell of the product. I was surprised!!! how come??? These stills are heated with charcoal, which is hardly used these days even in Scotland.

Rouxin and Mark :)))
by the way these stills are still in used and are not museum pieces or just for display purpose.

at this juncture Papa Bear and Dr. Epicurean enquired will Monkey minds....if we skip all of these and go straight to tasting. -_-" x 10000000000

So everyone was quite obedient and did the entire production process. Notice Dr. Epicurean was already impatient there. :P kekekekeke

Then we walked to the next building which explains the types of casks used in Nikka. Unlike Yamazaki, Nikka uses 4 types of cask

Ellen couldn't resist and must have one pic with this baby :))))))) Ellen do looked like Lee Shinje at certain angle!!! so pretty :)))

tatue of Masataka Taketsuru, the founder of Nikka Whisky.

Mr Taketsuru with his Scottish wife Rita.

One of the warehouses where the casks are slumbered to allow the maturation process to take place.
The maritime influence affects the microclimate of the area by increasing the humidity which is essential for the maturation process. In addition, the saltiness in the peat and air is encrypted in the properties of final product which one can nose and taste when savouring a cool glass of this amazing liquid.

Since the surrounding air quality (the cask sucks in the ambient external air as oxidation takes place inside the cask creating a partial vacuum) can affect the quality of the final whisky, the distillery actually ban vehicles waiting for passengers to have their engine running!!!! Yeah it's that anal.

Finally....everyone was waiting for this....and when that moment arrives....Dr. Epicurean had to ask "Is that all? we can just simply grab wat we wanna drink??"

Everyone soon ran scrambling to the whisky bar serving whisky of different vintages as though it's Supermarket Sweep!!!!

Just look at those eppy eppy faces~~~~
not just happy but very contented. Doesn't matter that it's only 11 in the morning. Kekekekeke. By the way it's a complimentary whisky buffet. Hahahahaha.

Mark was holding a glass of apple juice. It's so sweet and intense like a pineapple juice instead. But in reality it's really in fresh that cloudy yellowish liquid. Yoichi is famous for apples throughout Japan.

the bar has got pristine ice cubes and water if you don't want to drink it flat. It's good to have something that warms our stomach....nevermind that we haven't had breakfast yet...this would be our breakfast :))

After the complimentary tasting, we got tips and info about more tasting inside the museum. Soon this group of drunkards....errr I mean whisky enthusiast dashed to the museums for more PAID tasting. Yes the good stuffs are all here :))))

The 20 years single cask, single malt is one of Yoichi's premium whisky. The slow and long maturation process enhances and smoothens the rich Yoichi malts giving it impressive depth and complexity.

While the 25 years Taketsuru pure malt is a blend of two single malts from Yoichi and Miyagikyo distillery. This is a very rare whisky. Floral aromas dominate with soft sherry notes with a hint of sweetness as a result of long oak maturation. Most likely sherry butts cask were used to mature some of the components before blending.

Stained glass in the tasting room. This is so un-japanese.

Papa Bear made sure we kept to our timing, from the whisky tour to the tasting and more premium tasting and shopping....yes this group of drunkards, I mean Whiskey Enthusiasts bought so many bottles we got 2 FREE bottles. Tsk Tsk Tsk Tsk tsk~~~~

After all the shopping and drinking, everyone wanted a pic with this most popular landmark at Nikka Distillery including the photographer :P

I like his fiery red RayBan. Can I borrow please?"
JS: "NO. It's adjusted and fitted accordingly to my face and nose."
okie lor :(((

Rouxin and Mark with their loots. See I wasn't exaggerating when I said we bought a lot!!! 

Group picca!!!!! That was really an educational visit.

The two Japanese Whisky Giants, namely Nikka and Suntory form the main backbone of Japanese Whisky industry. Without one and the other will not have existed or achieved such global greatness. Being the same DNA background, they are indeed competitors but yet they co-exist in the perfect balance of Ying and Yang.
Mark, Rouxin, Ellen, Monkey, Papa Bear and Dr. Epicurean

We had such a great time visiting this distillery, after some drinks, we were even merrier and joyous that we had to cam-whored at the train the oblivious locals around. Maybe these kind of sights are pretty normal to them?

Look!!! other commuters couldn't really be bothered with our loud chitters chatters, laughters and loudness :P

Instead the orderly Japanese queue-ed under the hot sun before the train is even in sight!!! Soon this group of merry happy whisky enthusiast follow suit and tried not to be barbarians. Hahahaha

this wasn't the end of our wonderful day, as we were rushing to get to the next town - OTARU for really yummy superb sushis for lunch :))))

For the posting of JS's visit to Suntory Yamazaki in Kyoto *click here* 
If you would like to find out more about Nikka, visit their official website below:

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