Tuesday, June 30, 2009
Romantic looking, isn't it? This is Nikka whisky's Nishinomiya branch, a small corner of the sprawling Asahi brewing complex at Nishinomiya (Nikka is a subsidiary of Asahi).
When I visited a few months ago, I had fond imaginings of a charming building in the mould of Nikka's Yoichi and Miyagikyou plants. Nothing like it! The Nishinomiya operation is a massive hissing, steam snorting monster of a place, completely dominating this corner of Kansai. It makes you realise how small the whisky market is compared to beer, Japan's favourite drink. Nikka's Nishinomiya outpost is stuck in a side street on the Eastern end of the complex and I wouldn't advise trying to visit it, even if your whisky otaku glands rival mine in size. They will probably not let you in and it is really just a distribution office now anyway.
Nishinomiya does, however, have some significance in Japanese whisky history. Until the late 1990s, they had Coffey continuous stills installed here. By "here", I mean somewhere in the Nishinomiya complex rather than necessarily the present Nikka whisky branch pictured above. They moved the Coffey stills to Miyagikyou in 1998/1999.
This move from Nishinomiya to Miyagikyou sometimes confuses people, as became apparent on this Nonjatta comment thread yesterday. The Coffey stills are now at Miyagkyou so people often conclude that the Nikka Coffey malt and grain whiskies they are drinking were distilled there too. Nikka, for totally understandable reasons, does not spend a lot of effort correcting them because they have little interest in raising the profile of a now defunct distillery. In fact, all of the Coffey distilled malt and grain whisky Nikka has so far released (written 2009) was made at Nishinomiya. There will be some Miyagikyou Coffey whiskies arriving over the next few years.
Address in English
Nikka Whisky, Nishinomiya Koujou, 2-118 Tsutoiidenchou, Nishinomiya-shi, Hyogo-ken.
Address in Japanese