Nikka Coffey Malt Whisky

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Distillery/Brand: Nikka | Region: Japan | ABV: 45% | Color: Copper
Nose: 23 | Taste: 22 | Finish: 22 | Balance: 22 | Rating: 89

Review
Coffey stills also known as Continuous or Column stills were invented by French born Irishman Aeneas Coffey and are mainly used to distill grain whisky. Whisky made from malted barley is distilled in pot stills.

I could go into the rather lengthy explanation on the difference between the two but I won’t. Let’s just say that copper pot stills require two separate distillations to produce new make and must be done in batches.

Coffey stills on the other hand employ a rather unique method where the wash and the resulting alcohol vapors are run continuously through the two columns (hence, Continuous stills) to create an extremely high strength liquid (as high as 95%).

Nikka decided that it would be a good idea to run 100% malted barley through Coffey stills just to see what happens. This process is unheard of in Scotland making Japan the only place in the world where this kind of spirit is produced. There is also a Coffey Grain Whisky from Nikka to go along with this.

This is actually a rather new addition to the Nikka lineup having only been launched in January 2014.

My particular sample is a NAS bottling at 45%. There is precious little information on it’s maturation or it’s age. But if I was to hazard a guess I would peg it any where between 6-8 years in bourbon casks.

Nose: Bourbon like. Chocolate. Leather. Honey. Maple syrup. Marzipan. Ripe bananas. Stewed apples. Raisins. Figs. Fruit cake. Almonds. Cinnamon. A very sweet nose almost dripping with thick brown sugar and molasses.

Palate: Apples. Black pepper. Fruit cake. Tobacco leaf. Creme caramel. Toffee. Madeira cake. Cinnamon. Coffee beans. Very smooth delivery but which feels a touch under-powered. I would have liked a little zing but it stays soft.

Finish: Long. Oily. Tobacco lead. Cinnamon dust. Mild chocolate.

I think by running 100% malted barley in Coffey stills Nikka have come up with quite a unique flavor profile. The strong tobacco leaf and apple combination is quite nice. I’ll be trying the Nikka Coffey Grain (made from corn) next for a little head-to-head comparison.

Till then I’m quite happy to nurse this one for a while.

Rating: 89

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Nikka Taketsuru 17 Years

Nikka Taketsuru 17
Distillery/Brand: Nikka Taketsuru | Region: Japan | ABV: 43% | Color: Young Sauternes
Nose: 23 | Taste: 23 | Finish: 23 | Balance: 23 | Rating: 92

Review
Taketsuru San is a legend. He worked in Scotland during the early part of the 20th century at Longmorn and then at Hazelburn all the while carefully plotting a plan that would take the whisky world by storm.

He went back to Japan armed with whisky making knowledge and a Scottish wife (of no relevance to this review by the way) and began work at Kotobukiya (which would later become Suntory). Then in 1934 he decided to open up his own distillery and chose Yoichi on the northern Japanese island of Hokkaid. He believed that this part of the country most resembled Scotland.

This distillery would be named Nikka.

This pure 2013 pure malt is a homage to the great man who is responsible for some of my finest moments in whisky drinking. This blend also has the distinction of winning the 2014 World Whiskies Award for Best Blend. Not that I give a toss about whisky awards.

Nose: The sherry influence is is obvious. Dark honey and marmalade fig jam on slightly burnt toast. There is a touch of fresh mint and almonds too. It gets fruitier over time with pears and red berries. All this against a backdrop of decadent oaky chocolate cake.

Palate: Rich. Robust. Creamy. Unmistakable sherry raisins and chocolate maple. The black coffee peppers bring the spice while the ripe sultanas add a touch of fruit.

Finish: Spicy date on autumn leaves.

This is quite a bold whisky and unashamed of it’s flavors. I’d love to see a cask strength version of this.

Nikka, are you reading this?

Rating: 92

Nikka Miyagikyou 12

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Distillery/Brand: Nikka Miyagikyou
Region: Japan
ABV: 45%
Colour: Young Sauternes

Nose: 23
Taste: 23
Finish: 23
Balance: 23

Review
There is something oddly comforting about opening a Japanese single malt, especially from the power house Nikka, because you know you’re always in for a treat. And this entry level 12 is a must have on any shelf.

The warm chocolate Christmas cake sets the tone for a complex nosing experience. First come the dried figs and raisins with a healthy drop of vanilla. Juicy fruits are next in the shape of pears. Let it catch it’s breath and in come salty wild red berries and a handful of almonds. A very complex nose on a relatively young malt.

The full-bodied spirit cascades in with luscious chocolate, black peppercorns and candied orange. Chew it for a while (you will want to, believe me!) to welcome red grapes and hazelnuts in a swirl of sticky toffee.

The distinct aftertaste has a curious ‘twang’ to it. Not too oily, not too dry, it ends with lovely citrus and mint.

Just another malt that re-affirms my faith in the Land of the Rising Sun.

Rating: 92

Nikka Miyagikyou 15

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Distillery/Brand: Nikka Miyagikyou
Region: Japan
ABV: 45%
Colour: Gold

Nose: 22
Taste: 22
Finish: 22
Balance: 22

Review
This particular 15 year old was sampled fresh on the heels of it’s magnificent younger brother the 12 and so expectations were high. Add to that the reputation Nikka brings with it and you can imagine the burden on it’s young shoulders.

The nose is not bad. It’s not magnificent, mind you, but then everything can’t be hit out of the park all the time. There is woody brown sugar syrup mixed in with sweet melon followed by a drizzle of balsamic vinegar on nectarines. Quite interesting.

The palate is aggressive and reminded me of pancakes smothered liberally with woody maple syrup, dark chocolate and cinnamon.

The dry finish is spicy and full of cloves.

This is not a bad malt by any standards. It is a touch brash, in my opinion, and I wish it held it’s poise like it’s 12 year old sibling.

Rating: 88

Nikka Yoichi 15

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Distillery/Brand: Nikka Yoichi
Region: Japan
ABV: 45%
Colour: Old Gold

Nose: 24
Taste: 24
Finish: 23
Balance: 23

Review
What is it with the Japanese? They insist on doing everything so perfectly. Just like this 15 year old beauty from the Asian powerhouse that is Nikka.

Such a heady, almost dizzying, array of aromas greet you as you say hello to this beauty from the East. There’s maple syrup covered dark fruits ladled on a stack of hot pancakes, sprinkled with woody cinnamon and then rounded off with a drizzle of sherry infused with subtle peat. Quite arresting actually.

The maple syrup and black pepper on the palate play a woody chocolatey tune that works in perfect harmony with an edgy pinch of cumin. You’ll want to mull this one over for a while.

The long, oily finish sits on your lips for ages forcing you to make smacking sounds every two seconds. This makes you look quite silly in the process.

But that’s OK…

Rating: 94