Nikka Whisky Yoichi Distillery is a Japanese whisky distillery located in Hokkaido. It’s the home to Nikka Whisky, which is one of the oldest and biggest producers of Japanese whisky. I visited the distillery in summer and had an amazing time at their museums, whisky bars, and the tour.
The distillery opened in 1934 as a “dream place” to create whisky to the father of Japanese whisky Masataka Taketsuru. He looked all over Japan for the perfect place to create his dream whisky. Yoichi was a perfect place which had the similar climate to Scotland.
Getting around the distillery
You can choose to participate in the guided distillery tour or just walk freely. The guided tour is conducted in Japanese only, but it includes opportunities to visit tour participants-limited sights, too. If you are walking freely, they have a guidance smartphone app to help you find the way.
They also have multilingual pamphlets.
The distillery is pretty big, so I recommend to spend at least three hours here.
The guided distillery tour
I participated in the tour which lasted about 50 minutes and it was free. They took us around most of the buildings with explanations in Japanese. (The tour is available only in Japanese at August 2017)
The pot stills have Japanese religious ropes around to wish for good whisky production. This is because Taketsuru was born in a sake brewery family who followed Japanese traditions.
The tour ends with free-tasting time. You can get to taste three kinds of liquors at the tasting bar: Pure Malt Whisky Taketsuru, Blended Whisky Super Nikka, and Apple Wine. The free-tasting is available to everyone even to those who walked freely. However, everyone needs to submit “tasting card” which you have to write down the name, birthday, etc. You can find the card on the first floor of Nikka Kaikan, where the free-tasting bar is located.
They offer water, ice, and soda at the bar which can be used to drink with whisky samples. Their recommended way to drink is twice up for Taketsuru, Mizuwari (Ice 3, water 2, whisky 1) for Super Nikka, and on the rocks for Apple Wine.
There is also a vending machine where you can buy snacks to pair with whisky.
I got the Nikka original whisky chocolate!
The tasting bar is pretty big, so you won’t have problems finding a seat. I recommend getting a seat near the window. It must be so beautiful in winter with snow!
Enjoy the paid tasting bar “Whisky Club”
If you love whisky and willing to try something limited here, you should definitely stop by “Whisky Club”, the paid tasting bar inside Whisky Museum.
You can taste Nikka’s and other whiskies from the world from 150 yen (15cc)! They have a menu book with pictures of bottles, so choose what you want to try from the menu book and ask the bartenders. They will pour 15cc and pay when you receive the glass.
The must have here is Single Cask Malt Whisky Yoichi. This is limitedly provided at Whisky Club, and it was ¥1,000 for 15cc.
I would say just stopping here is worth the visit to Yoichi Distillery. The price is unbelievably low and whisky is seriously delicious. (I would say you don’t have to try free-tasting if you plan to stop by Whisky Club)
“Whisky and wine lamb shabu-shabu” lunch at Restaurant Taru
Yoichi Distillery has a restaurant called Taru where they offer some food and drinks. I had lunch there because I wanted to try their super delicious looking whisky and wine lamb shabu-shabu!
It actually tasted pretty nice. I did not feel alcoholic flavor, but lamb tasted quite good when it’s cooked in wine and whisky.
They had other Hokkaido local dishes like soup curry, ramen salad, spaghetti and cutlet, Ghengis Khan, etc.
The restaurant did not have so many seats, and I had to wait about 30 minutes to get in during lunch time. If you plan to visit the restaurant, you should make sure you have enough time.
Lastly, don’t forget to stop by their souvenir shop
Nikka Whisky Yoichi Distillery’s souvenir shop is pretty amazing.
They had quite numbers of souvenirs from alcohol to snacks, and their Yoichi distillery limited whisky looked pretty popular. They also have small bottles and boxes containing different kinds, which is perfect for presents back home.
I enjoyed my first visit to Yoichi Distillery so much and spent almost 6 hours! I will definitely come back here in winter to see the snowy scenery and taste different whiskies at the paid tasting bar Whisky Club.
How to go to Nikka Whisky Yoichi Distillery
I strongly recommend using public transportation because under Japanese law, you are not allowed to drive if you have even a sip of alcoholic drinks.
Nikka Whisky Yoichi Distillery is only 2-3 minutes walk from JR Yoichi Station. The easiest way to get there is by train, but you should be careful that there are not many numbers of trains from Otaru Station. There is also buses from Otaru Station. For details, please refer to the official website.
Nikka Whisky Yoichi Distillery
Address: 7-6 Kurokawa-cho, Yoichi-cho, Yoichi-gun,Hokkaido
Reservation for guided tour (No English available): https://distillery.nikka.com/reservation/