Nikka and Suntory are the heavyweights in the Japanese whisky industry. And Yoichi is to the Nikka stable of distilleries/brands what Yamazaki is to Suntory’s: the featured player. In the last year a few of Nikka’s whiskies finally made it to the US market: the excellent Yoichi 15 and the vatted malt, Taketsuru 12. Very recently, a few more have joined that initial pair: Taketsuru 17 and 21 (a review of an earlier iteration of the latter is coming soon), a 12 yo from Miyagikyou, Nikka’s other malt distillery and a single grain. The pricing on all of these, unfortunately, has not been recession-friendly. I shudder to think of what we would be asked to pay for the more prized Yoichi single casks such as the one I am reviewing today. This was bottled in 2010 by the famous French store/importer La Maison du Whisky.
Yoichi 1987-2010 (59%; sherry cask #112814; from a sample from a friend)
Note: I am not 100% positive this is a sherry cask; it is identified as such on Whiskybase and the outturn for a single cask is obviously way too high to be a hogshead or barrel (which are the norm for bourbon wood; I don’t think I’ve ever heard of bourbon casks being broken down and remade as butts or puncheons). Let’s see what my nose and palate say.
Nose: This is no sherry bomb. Elegant, polished wood notes lead and following in their train there’s citrus peel, honey, brown butter, milk chocolate and some light maple syrup. Just a lovely first sniff. With a little more time there’s just a hint of pine. A few drops of water don’t make too much of a difference to the nose at first but after a minute or two the aromas concentrate and integrate wonderfully. More sherry notes now. The milk chocolate expands and there’s also a nice aroma of hazelnut flavoured coffee. With a little more water the nose begins to flatten a little.
Palate: A little too hot at full strength but still expressive: brown sugar/maple syrup; some salt too. Needs water though. Okay, still pretty hot; another drop or two: more spicy wood now as a counterpoint to the sweetness; more citrus now too.
Finish: Long. Salty and a little piney and then there’s the taste of wet stones. With water the sweetness and the late developing citrus linger for a while and the polished wood comes along as well.
Comments: I really liked the nose but had a little more trouble getting the palate to talk; not sure if I managed to get it to say everything it can, and I did like it a lot, but it was not as complex/expressive as the nose. And frankly, for a likely sherry cask I thought this had quite a lot in common with the (presumably much younger) Yamazaki Bourbon Barrel.
Thanks to Rich for the sample!
Rating: 88 points. Might rise with a larger pour and more time.