Miyagikyo is the largest of Nikka’s Japanese whisky distilleries. It was established in a valley near the city of Sendai by Masataka Taketsuru. He chose the location because of its proximity to the pure waters of the Nikkawa River.
Miyagikyo produces both malt and grain whiskies for use in a range of Nikka products.
The whisky is fresh, fruity and floral with grassy notes sitting alongside apples, pears and vanilla.
Miyagikyo was designed to contrast with Nikka’s original distillery at Yoichi. Yoichi produces a smoky whisky but Miyagikyo uses unpeated malt for a fresher spirit character. The malt used in production is imported from Scotland and Australia.
The distillery's single malt is produced in large copper pot stills. Distillation runs slowly and each still is fitted with an ascending lyne arm and boil ball. Both of these features contribute to the lightness of the spirit.
Miyagikyo is also fitted with several sets of Coffey stills which are used to produce grain whiskies for Nikka's blends. They are also used to produce Nikka’s Coffey Malt and Coffey Grain bottlings. The Coffey range has recently expanded to include other spirits like gin and vodka.
Miyagikyo's spirit matures predominantly in ex-bourbon whiskey barrels and ex-sherry casks. Rum and Apple Brandy casks have also been used to finish limited-edition releases.
There are 16 dunnage warehouses on site. As the distillery stands in an earthquake zone, casks are stored in two tiers to protect them from damage.
Miyagikyo has an annual capacity of around 3 million litres.
Nikka is the second-largest whisky producer in Japan. The company was established by Masataka Taketsuru in 1934.
Taketsuru spent ten years working at Suntory where he established Japan’s first whisky distillery at Yamasaki. However, a desire for creative freedom led him to create Nikka and establish a distillery at Yoichi in Hokkaido. He based the distillery on all he had learned whilst serving apprenticeships at distilleries in Scotland.
Yoichi produced a slightly coastal, peated whisky and Masataka needed something different to bring complexity to his blends. In 1969, after a two-year search, he finally settled on a location for his second distillery. In a shady valley between the Nikkawa and Hirosegawa Rivers, he established Sendai Distillery.
Each river was tested and Nikkawa was found to have the purest waters. It has served as the distillery's water source ever since.
The distillery was expanded in 1979 and again in 1989. A decade later, when Nikka was taken over by the Asahi Brewery Company, it was renamed Miyagikyo. The same year, Nikka’s Coffey stills were transferred from their Nishinomiya plant.
Masataka Taketsuru passed away ten years after Miyagikyo distillery was created. Sadly, he never witnessed the massive global upsurge in the popularity of the Japanese whisky he pioneered.
That surge in popularity caught many distillers off-guard. In 2015, Nikka was forced to overhaul its core range. Miyagikyo's 10, 12 and 15-year-old bottlings were pulled from the market and replaced with a single no-age-statement expression.
Such incredibly high demand is a testament to the relentless pursuit of quality instilled in the business by its founder. Nikka, Yoichi and Miyagikyo are world-renowned thanks to the brilliant vision of Masataka Taketsuru.