[Tasting Session] Nikka special 27/07/16

Something I haven't really done on the blog so far is review Japanese whiskies. In my mind, prices have gone through the roof in the last couple of years and for £100, I'm sure I can get something more exceptional than a 12 year old Japanese whisky... The only bottle I own is one my parents brought back from France a couple of Christmases ago and that is the All Malt from Nikka. I will review it in another post but it does lead me nicely to today's post which is about the Nikka tasting I attended last week at the Whisky Shop Manchester (I know, there once again! I must say I do not work for them or get anything back apart from more knowledge and experiences of whiskies I would not have got to try any other ways). The tasting was conducted by Stefanie Holt from the Nikka Company and involved 6 whiskies from their range, from grain to single malt to blend to pure malt. Here is the line up:

1. Nikka Coffey Grain Whisky 45%
2. Miyagikyo Single Malt 45%
3. Yoichi Single Malt 45%
4. The Nikka 12 Blended whisky 43%
5. Nikka Whisky from the Barrel 51.4%
6. Pure Malt White 43%

After a rather in-depth history of the Nikka company and its founder Masataka Taketsuru, we got started with the Nikka Coffey Grain whisky. I must admit that having heard about this Coffey grain, I did originally think it had something to do with coffee beans... I know, stupid of me to assume this as Coffey comes from the name given to the specific type of still used to distill the spirit. A Coffey still (named after his Irish inventor Aeneas Coffey) is basically a colunm still. So absolutely nothing to do with coffee! Now for the whisky itself. To me it was very near to a Bourbon: corn vanilla, some tropical fruit and a hint of spices. Enjoyable... Enough to spend around £50... not sure.

We moved on to the two single malts, the first of which was the Miyagikyo. To me I got a slightly savoury/meaty nose with hints of peat, some sweetnes and citrus on the palate with more floral notes on the finish. With the addition of a few drops of water it became sweeter with more raisin flavour. Again, very pleasant but again, for around £70 I can find better.

The second single malt was the Yoichi, a whisky I have been looking forward to trying for a very long time. I do like peaty whisky and when I started researching peaty whiskies outside of Islay, i came across Yoichi as the peaty Japanese whisky. I didn't really realise Japanese are not overly keen on peat so this one got me a tad disappointed as I was expecting more peat. However the peat is far from being in your face like a Laphroaig, it is very subtle. I got spicy fruit first with the peat appearing pretty late on the palate and lingering in the finish. Matt, one of the guys there described the nose as " sugar on pork cracklings". Very pleasant but you will have understood my point by now, not enough to make me part with another £70ish.

I was quite surprised we started with the grain and single malts before moving onto blended and vatted whiskies but I guess the tasting logic is that by sampling the single malts first, we were getting the different components of the blends one at a time, experiencing their own flavours and specificity and now we could see how they worked together with the blends. The first blend was the Nikka 12, their latest addition to the range, mixing both Yoichi and Miyagikyo. I picked up toffee, floral notes, tropical fruit and spices at the end. I don't know if it was because of the order of the tasting of the whisky itself, but it really didn't do it for me. If on top of it, you consider the price (around £100) that's definitely not for me.

Nikka from the Barrel was next. I came across it in supermarkets before, some of my friends tried it and told me they enjoyed it, so what did I think of it? Sweet caramel flavours with hints of citrus and still some spices. Much better than the Nikka 12 and I would never have believed this whisky was bottled at the higher ABV of 51.4%. It is smooth and very pleasant. Now at around £40, it is -to me- much better value for money even if only bottled in 50cl batches.

Finally, the Pure Malt White. Nikka present their Pure Malt in 3 versions, Red, Black and White. The Red is smooth and fruity, the Black is fruity and peaty and the White is more intensely smoky and peaty, apparently the peatiest Nikka of their whole range. On the night, we had the White and to me, the best of the line-up. It was more what I was expecting Yoichi to taste like, peat, tropical fruit with a nice balance of sweet notes and peaty notes and hints of salt. Wonderful. I know it only comes in 50cl bottles and it costs around £60 but if I had to buy one of the 6, this would be the one.


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