Friday, August 28, 2015

New Yoichi & Miyagikyo Expressions

Post by Stefan Van Eycken, Tokyo

September 1 marks the start of a new chapter in Nikka history. Two new NAS expressions will replace the entire range of Yoichi and Miyagikyo single malts. There’s bound to be a bit of confusion because both distilleries already had a NAS expression and people will probably raise an eyebrow or two thinking Nikka just slapped a new label on the old bottles and raised the price. That is not the case. To reiterate, they are new expressions and they are in fact closer to the old 10yo Yoichi and Miyagikyo (in terms of flavor profile and composition) than to their resp. older NAS expressions – hence, the slightly higher price tag, although we are still talking entry-level.
We had the pleasure of trying the new expressions ahead of the official release and were very pleasantly surprised. No need for doom and gloom. With the Yoichi, you get a lovely barley sweetness, pencil shavings, over-ripe orchard fruits and soft smoke on the nose; oak and peat lead the dance on the palate with some candied orange peel thrown in; the finish is earthy and vegetal, with some tea on the side. The Miyagikyo offers apples and pears on the nose with grassy and light floral elements in the background; dried fruits, vanilla and anise on the palate, with a tiny bit of bitterness (grapefruit peel, grape skin) and some milk chocolate on the finish.
It’s clear that a great deal of thought and work has gone into these new expressions. An interesting side effect of the stock pressure that the big Japanese companies are experiencing is that it forces their blenders to up their game. It’s easy to create a fabulous whisky if you have a huge inventory to draw upon, but to do so with more limited means is a real challenge for the imagination. It’s a bit like writing a piano piece for three fingers. Chief blender Tadashi Sakuma is clearly in his element and up to the challenge.

A few months ago, I was offered a blind sample and asked to comment on it. I don’t remember what I said, but I do remember it was one of the best whiskies I’d had this year (and it still is). Then came the shock: it wasn’t available and never would be. It was a whisky that Sakuma-san had recreated from Takeshi Taketsuru’s last recipe, but there was just no stock to make more than a bottle or two of it. A tragedy? For sure… but the same care and creativity is being applied to developing expressions like the new Yoichi and Miyagikyo NAS.
On September 1, two limited-edition NAS expressions will also be released: a “Heavily Peated Yoichi” and “Sherry Cask Miyagikyo” (3,000 bottles each). They’re as good as sold out even before they’re released, so it seems there’s more than just a few people out there interested in piano pieces for three fingers.


lainwir3d said...

Interesting. I hope those expressions will be at Whisky Live Paris this september.

Didier said...

They will be at Whisky Live Paris, though they won't be available to buy in Europe before early 2016.

paddya said...

This is fabulous news. I am in kyoto for a short visit, do you any leads on where i can find the Yoichi Heavily Peated?

mark said...

what about whether they will be at Whisky Live Toronto?

Sander vdent said...

Beste Stefan, heb je enig idee wanneer en via welk kanaal deze flessen in Nederland of Belgie aan zullen komen? Zou ze best eens willen proeven! Groetjes Sander