Nikka Japanese Whisky – tasting highlights

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In my previous post, we looked at the history of Japanese Nikka whisky, the realisation of Masataka Taketsuru’s dream. In all, Nikka makes nearly 30 different whiskies from its two distilleries. Having tasted the entire range with brand manager Didier Ghorbanzadeh, I’ve picked out some of my favourites – first up is Nikka From The Barrel, one of Nikka’s entry-level bottlings, but a whisky that makes a real statement with its tempting mix of fruit, spice and smoke.

Nikka From The Barrel, 51.4%Nikka From the Barrel

Nose: Spicy and peppery, but there’s a richness behind it, with spicy oak and orange fruitiness, and soft vanilla notes from the bourbon cask.

Palate: Grainy sweetness and candied orange peel, quite rich, accompanied by rich cinnamon and clove.

Finish: Great balance, this really needs a little water to allow the flavours to unfurl.

Comment: Characterful stuff, this whisky has plenty of personality, and shows a delightful balance between the spicy pepperiness and rich citrus fruit.

Nikka Pure Malt Red, 43% Pure Malt Red

Nose: Rich and fruity, with red berries and cherries and a touch of menthol and cassis.

Palate: Soft fruitiness, with strawberries the dominant note, accompanied by cherries and a touch of sweet spice.

Finish: The soft fruity notes continue.

Comment: Delicious, fruit-led whisky. Very refreshing.

Nikka Coffey Malt, 45% Coffey Malt

Nose: Fresh and clean, with aromas of candied lemon peel and rich cake spices.

Palate: Robust and spicy, quite a dense mouthfeel and richly textured, with cinnamon and clove on the palate, and citrus-tinged freshness to lighten the load.

Finish: Harmonious blend of dense spices, rich oak, and lemon and orange notes. Delightful.

Comment: A fascinating experiment that more than passes the test. This is a delightfully fruity, spicy whisky with a refreshing aromatic zing.

Nikka Taketsuru Pure Malt, 43% Taketsuru Pure Malt

Nose: Clean and bright, red-fruit notes come bursting out of the glass, with some extra sweetness, akin to glazed fruit tarts.

Palate: Soft, fruity mouthfeel, then some spicy clove appears along with a cherry-menthol note.

Finish: The rich fruit lingers.

Comment: Fruit salad in a glass, this benefits from some time in sherry cask that adds richness and body.

Miyagikyo 10 Year Old, 45% Miyagikyo 10 Year Old

Nose: Light, elegant and fresh, with zingy orange and lemon aromas bringing this whisky to life.

Palate: Bursting with citrus fruit, this is fresh, fragrant and enjoyable. A slightly sour note to the fruit adds depth, and the spicy, toasty oak provides good support.

Finish: Very refreshing, with the fruit continuing.

Comment: Clean as a whistle, this is an ideal aperitif whisky, with citrus fruits to the fore.

Nikka Yoichi 10 Year Old, 45% Yoichi 10 Year Old

Nose: Fabulous umami-rich nose, brimming with herbs, balsamic vinegar and savoury peat.

Palate: A medicinal/iodine note is accompanied by rich dried fruit, herbal notes and spicy touches.

Finish: Rich, peaty and satisfying.

Comment: There’s a big peatiness to this whisky, sure, but the rich fruit and spice balances things out.

The Nikka 12 Year Old, 43% The Nikka 12 Year Old

Nikka’s latest whisky won’t be launched until the autumn, at The Whisky Exchange Whisky Show in London, but we’ve been lucky enough to try a sneaky sample. Here’s our tasting note:

Nose: Punchy and spicy, with green peppercorns battling it out with red fruits, butterscotch and nutmeg. Precise and poised.

Palate: Rich, clean fruit – greengages and Granny Smith apples. Vibrant fruit-cake notes with a hint of toffee and sweet spice to smooth things out.

Finish: Very fresh despite the richness, this is a class act. Refreshing and moreish.

Comment: Beautifully balanced between tempting sweetness and refreshing fruit. Lovely stuff.

Tasting through the range, what is clear is the overall level of quality on show. Those who prefer their whiskies at the fruitier end will enjoy the Miyagikyo bottlings; spice fans can try the Taketsuru range; while peat lovers should head for the Yoichis – they are seriously good whiskies. Scotch fans who have yet to try a Japanese whisky, whether it’s from Nikka, Suntory or Chichibu, really are missing out.

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