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Masataka Taketsuru was born in 1894 into a comfortably off sake producing family in Takehara, Hiroshima Prefecture. In his teens he attended Osaka Technical High School completing a course focused on alcohol manufacture. He then joined a drinks company called Settsu Shuzo and it was here that a decision was made which would change his life forever.
The head of the company, Abe Kihee, was aware of the superior quality of imported Scotch, as compared to locally produced spirit, and decided to send Taketsuru to the other side of the world to Scotland to learn the details and secrets of its production.
He set off from Japan in July 1918 and although the Pacific Theatre was quiet, and Japan was aligned with the Allies, the Great War was still raging in Europe. He travelled by ship to the USA, traversing it by train, and then took another boat, which zig zagged across the Atlantic to deter U boats, eventually bringing him safely to Liverpool.
Originally intending to base himself in Edinburgh, he was advised en route that Glasgow might be preferable, and so, in December 1918, he enrolled on a Chemistry course at the University of Glasgow.
He wished however to learn in more detail about the manufacture of Malt whisky and how it was incorporated into the popular blends which predominated in that era.
One blend which was of particular interest was White Horse which belonged to Sir Peter Mackie. Whilst Professor Forsyth Wilson was not able to gain him access to the sensitive Blending operations in Glasgow, Taketsuru was allowed to spend an extended period of several months in early 1920 at Mackie’s recently acquired Hazelburn distillery in Campbeltown.
On the Production Methods of Pot Still Whisky: Campbeltown, Scotland, May 1920
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