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Issue 34 - Chills and thrills (Yoichi)

Whisky Magazine Issue 34
October 2003


This article is 14 years old and some information provided may be time sensitive. Please check all details of events, tours, opening times and other information before travelling or making arrangements.

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Chills and thrills (Yoichi)

Dave Broomtries to discover the secret of Nikka by visiting its North Japanese Yoichi distillery

There's a difference to the light. Clear, sharp. The sky is blue but it is a chill blue. The trees on the roadside hills are thin-trunked, their ranches making fine tracings on the sky.

The ground seems thin. There are spruce and fir covered mountains in the distance, and a cold sea beside us as we drive through tunnels carved through cliffs that rear like breaching whales from the ocean.

A northern landscape. (Sorry Antipodean friends, but I write from a northern perspective).

There's a smoor of snow on the hills. A place of ferries, heavy-booted people, where you can see your breath in front of you. It's good to be going north, and west for that matter and is a relief to have this space after the concreted confines of Tokyo.

Sorry. Should have said that to begin with. This is Japan, not the road to Skye.

Specifically, this is Hokkaido. If you think of Japan as being like a dragon arcing out across the sea, then the island of Hokkaido is its head.

Our destination is Nikka's distillery in the small town of Yoichi on its western coast. At least my head was clearing.

It's bad enough having to get up at 6.30am to go to the airport for a day trip, doubly so when you haven't got to bed till the small hours, triply so when you wake up in such a panic that you pack your suitcase and try to check out.

“Just bring yourself, Dave,” says the affable Nikka's Naofumi Kamiguchi.

“You're back here tonight.”

I'd wanted to visit Yoichi ever since I'd first tasted the 10 year...

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