Nikka to Add Whisky Specialists with Eye on Malts

Jiji Press
Nikka Whisky Distilling Co. President Kazutomo Tamesada speaks during an interview in Tokyo in June.

TOKYO (Jiji Press) — Nikka Whisky Distilling Co. plans to hire more whisky experts, such as blenders and technicians, according to Kazutomo Tamesada, president of the company.

“The current organization has no leeway [for business expansion],” Tamesada said in a recent interview, indicating that he plans to increase the number of staff to raise production of unblended malt whisky, which is in short supply, and to develop more sales channels abroad.

Tokyo-based Nikka invested about ¥6.5 billion over three years through 2021 to beef up storage facilities at its Yoichi Distillery in the town of Yoichi, Hokkaido, and its Miyagikyo Distillery in the city of Sendai, Miyagi Prefecture.

But the company is considering further investment so it can secure enough barrels and distillation capacity to expand production in the future.

As for manpower buildup, Tamesada said, “We’re facing a challenge of technical tradition.”

Although Nikka sometimes uses those who were hired by its parent, Asahi Breweries Ltd., also based in the capital, it is always having difficulty developing human resources specializing in whisky, he pointed out.

“I’d like to nurture ‘artisans’ at Nikka,” he said, referring to blending and distillation specialists.

Japanese liquor makers have cut back whisky output since 1983, the peak year.

However, introduction of a variety of ways to drink has helped make whisky popular again.

On top of this, the airing of an NHK television drama series featuring Nikka founder Masataka Taketsuru has led to the chronic shortage of unblended whisky at the company.

Nikka’s Taketsuru and other Japanese whisky brands are attracting customers abroad as well.

On the back of strong demand, the company, which currently is exporting whisky to 60 countries and regions, hopes to further expand its overseas sales channels, mainly in Asia, where its presence is weaker.

But for now, Nikka will concentrate on reinforcing the existing networks in Europe and the United States, Tamesada added.