Sweeping away from the norm and moving into unorthodox territory (non-Suntory) is my take of another bohemath from the east – The Nikka; and the spirit of choice, ‘Nikka Whisky from the barrel.’
The whisky is a blend of grain and malts from the Miyagikyo and Yoichi distilleries, that have previously been matured in sherried, american or ex-bourbon barrels. On blending, they are further matured in first fill bourbon casks, giving the opportunity for the spirits to infuse together giving it cohesion, balance and unison.
Now to the average joe, me included, the labelling might get you all excited. But dont be fooled, misguiding and far from the truth this expression surely has higher ABVs than most commercial bottlings but is still an arms length from being at strengths similar to cask strengths. Now maybe we’re being too knit picky here; and in all likelihood the distillers might have just intended to convey the relationship between whisky and wood; an unorthodox choice of words no doubt…
The bottle however is iconic, subtle to the eyes and traditional. It’s cube like shape is almost nostalgic, reminding me of ayurvedic medicinal bottles I would see lying around my grandparent’s house. As a child, I would visit them once a year, usually during Christmas or during summer vacations (the northern hemisphere kind) and every visit was an experience and an adventure of its own. My grandparents were farmers and lived far from the city and it was during this time that I through my parents would connect with nature, and all things far from modern. For a child born out of the early 80s, living much of his early years in Dubai, these memories were gold and have etched deep into the subconscious mind.
Back to whisky…
Eye: Burnished | Caramel colouring
Nose: Lovely rich sherry, caramel and fudge infused with butter, grains and cocoa powder. The mild sweetness from raspberries are complimented by ripe bananas and coconut shavings, which slowly begins to reveal notes of earthy oak followed by the zest of orange peels and a mild pinch of pepper.
Taste: Christmas cake drizzled with caramel and paired with butterscotch ice cream, raisins, black currants and nougat. This lush sweetness is in time replaced by a fusion of cloves with mild savory notes and a sublime warmth.
Finish : Sweet sherry, hints of clove and pepper.
Smooth and silky on the tongue, this whisky is what you would expect from the Japanese – rich and regal with a plethora of flavours that hop in and around your senses. The american and sherry oak maturation have provided for layers of sweetness with the high ABV adding more bang for buck. I did however feel it to be quite heavy – trademark of the Yoichi malts, being a tad bit sweet, making it more of an aperitif than a regular for the shot glass.
Long story short, this whisky is a splendid dram though coming in steeper – risking the possibility of emptying your pocket sooner. A lovely expression that has sweetness, bits of earthiness and a mild citrus zest all topped with sherried nuances that offer a pleasant experience and a nostalgic blast from my past!
Preference: Neat or with a splash of water.