Post by Stefan Van Eycken, Tokyo
It’s exciting for a number of reasons. First of all, it ducks the recent trend – in Japan, as elsewhere in the world – towards NAS releases. Secondly, it is priced very reasonably in comparison with obviously younger NAS siblings on the Japanese (single malt / ‘pure malt’ / blended) whisky shelf – recommended retail price is 5,000 yen, but it will be offered by some retailers for around 4,500 yen.
Third, and most importantly, the quality is superb. We got an advance sample and it really is a great sipping whisky. On the nose, the presence of the Coffey grain is immediately clear (with notes of roast coconut flakes and banana leaves), but it’s balanced with orchard fruits (green apples and pears) supplied by the Miyagikyo malt and a slight whiff of peat from the Yoichi malt. On the palate (it’s bottled at 43% abv, by the way), you get annin dofu, orchard fruits again, barley sugar and a touch of white pepper. The finish is medium-long on Oreo cookies and shortbread with a bit of grapefruit peel and some spice thrown in the mix.
Nikka is promoting this as a whisky to have on the rocks, but it’s great ‘as is’, and it wouldn’t surprise me if it worked a treat in a highball, too (something which the small sample didn’t allow me to ascertain). The year isn’t over yet, but so far, this is the release of the year for me, as far as generally available Japanese whisky goes. It’s clear that the master minds at Nikka have set themselves a great many challenges in this their 80th anniversary year. This is certainly one they’ve pulled off beautifully!