Japan/Hokkaido: Nikka Yoichi Whisky Distillery

Ever tried Japanese whisky? It’s fantastic! In 1918, a Japanese guy named Masataka Taketsuru traveled to Scotland with a single purpose of learning first-hand how to make quality whisky. He returned 5 years later and eventually started his own company – Nikka Whisky. The Yoichi Distillery is located right on the shore and supposedly the constant sea breeze adds a unique flavor to the barrels that mature in open above-ground warehouses. It’s a working distillery and you can tour everything and see the stoves, the distillation, casks, and so on. Alternatively, if you enter from the wrong side of the distillery as I did – your first stop will be the tasting hall, where you can go nuts tasting any of over a dozen whisky varieties on offer. I went with 10, 17, and 21-year single malt cask-matured whiskies – refined and not peaty or smoky but rather deep and flavorful. Afterwords, the tour seemed three times as interesting.