Nikka is one of two Japanese whisky producers currently in the US market (Suntory is the other). So far they’ve released the excellent Yoichi 15 and the Taketsuru 12 (a vatted malt which I do not know) and there’s word that one of their grain whiskies is on the way as well. Those who’ve had access to Japanese whisky from other markets are hoping that they will eventually add this blend to their portfolio here as well. Packaged at cask strength (or at high strength anyway) in a distinctive square bottle this whisky is sheer easy drinking pleasure, and some of the pleasure comes from the fact that it is a very good value (I paid $34 for the 500 ml bottle in the UK; I guess that would be $51 for a 750 ml bottle–so, maybe not quite as good a value once you do the arithmetic).
Nikka Whisky From The Barrel (51.4%; from my own bottle)
Nose: Orange peel, toffee, caramel. Reminiscent of floral bourbons or am I thinking of rum? With time a very pleasant spicy wood comes to the fore, and there are notes of rye too. Not a whole lot of development after that–indeed the nose is remarkably consistent; there’s not much flattening of the initial aromas. A touch of water emphasizes the toffee and caramel and brings out some cream and hazelnut as well–or is it Tiramisu? There’s certainly some powdered cocoa over the cream.
Palate: Soft and supple. Sweet wood at first, turning peppery and spicy. Quite different from the nose: I’m not getting any of the toffee or the fruit. By no means is this overly woody (far from it) but the pleasures are of wood spice. With time there’s something floral in there too and later a slight astringence. Very drinkable at full strength but let’s see what a drop or two of water does. Water rounds it out–the spicy wood is now in balance with a malty sweetness.
Finish: Long’ish, with the peppery, woody notes hanging around. As on the palate, water makes the finish a little sweeter too.
Comments: I’ve not had too many blended whiskies but this is the best of the few I’ve had. If you look down on blended whiskies that may seem like damning with faint praise, but this is really very good. It’s quite reminiscent of the Archives North British 50, which is, of course, much older than this likely is, is all grain whisky and is also much more expensive. I don’t know how I am going to replace this bottle when it’s done, but I do have a couple of Nikka’s pure malts to console me when that day comes (courtesy a friend transitting through Reykjavik–always good to know your international Duty Free inventory) .
Rating: 86 points.
Thanks for the sample, Mao, I’m really enjoying it tonight! And your comments are spot on! I made the same associations with bourbon, with some underlying rye notes. In fact it reminds me of a recent bottle of Willett SB 7yo more than anything else. Very Japanese – that spicy wood is super elegant, but there is an overall sense of balance and control. Good bourbon comes with abandon – if I’m up at 2am odds are there’s bourbon in my glass. With this Nikka, I’ll have two drinks and go to sleep, happy and at peace, one with the Universe.
See what it did to me?
Can’t believe I’m just seeing this review now, almost three weeks after I reviewed it. I really liked this whisky, hell I don’t know if there’s a blended whisky I like better than this. Yes, that way the praise sounds limited (blends!), but I’m just going to need a full bottle to confirm this. It would be great if they could sell this here in The States.