Post by Stefan Van Eycken, Tokyo
It’s that time of the year again: La Maison du Whisky’s quartet of Nikka single casks are almost upon us. Just like in previous years, it showcases the four different facets of Nikka’s whisky production: there’s one specimen from each of its malt distilleries (a Yoichi and a Miyagikyo), a Coffey grain, and a hybrid (something that would be impossible in Scotland) a Coffey malt, i.e. malted barley distilled in a continuous still. We’ll look at them pair by pair, starting with the Coffey offerings.
Coffey Malt 2003, #130541, Re-charred Hogshead, 58%abv, 220btls
On the nose, for the grain (i.e. the 1999), the initial impressions are toasted coconut flakes and overripe banana peel; the malt (i.e. the 2003) is characterized by fresh wood notes (new plank, pencil shavings, annin dofu) and earthy, vegetal elements. Going back to the grain, you’ll find hints of motor oil, spices (cumin and nutmeg), limoncello babas, Twinings’ salted caramel tea (no product placement intended) and a very subtle suggestion of lamb chops with rosemary. The malt, on the other hand, is really like an early morning meadow in spring with some home-made spicecake (‘peperkoek’) and whiffs of nail varnish.
On the palate, with the grain bottling, you get that typical Nikka Coffey Grain note – like tupig (sticky rice logs with coconut cream and molasses, cooked in banana leaves) – but with a lovely spicy development (nutmeg, cloves, a bit of garam masala). The malt is very different: an intensely fruity attack (totally unannounced by the palate) and then you find yourself in a bakery on a Sunday morning.
Water doesn't do all that much for the grain, but it really has an impact on the malt. Just a few drops and it opens like a magic box, throwing an avalanche of cut flower stems and ripe plums at you. On the palate, water brings out hot chocolate and dried dates.
The finish on the Coffey Grain is like eating raspberry-white chocolate Tim Tams around a campfire that’s just been lit, whereas the Coffey Malt’s adieu is all about Christmas stollen in the meadows.
Join us again tomorrow when we take the Yoichi and Miyagikyo for a walk across the senses.