Nikka 12, “Woody & Mellow”

I started last week with a review of a Japanese whisky (this Hanyu); I may as well end this week with a review of another. This one is not a single malt. It was one of a series of limited edition whiskies released by Nikka, all of which were 12 years old and all of which were marked by two key characteristics. I’m a bit fuzzy on whether the idea was/is that these are the whiskies that in some combination go into Nikka’s blends or that they were to be purchased as components for home blending—I do believe they were only available at the Yoichi distillery (please correct me if I’m wrong). I’ve previously reviewed the Yoichi “Peaty & Salty” from the same series, and I quite liked that one. This, however, is a grain whisky, and one distilled in a coffey or two-column continuous still that is commonly used in grain whisky distillation. My track record with grain whisky is not very good but, as always, I live in hope. Maybe this will be the best grain whisky I’ve had in a while. Let’s see.

Nikka 12, “Woody & Mellow” (55%; from a sample received in a swap)

Nose: Honey and lemon but also a fair bit of lumber and varnished plywood. The wood expands on the second and third sniffs. With time and air it backs off a little and some apricot emerges to join the honey and lemon. A few drops of water push the wood back further and softens the whole, bringing out a little toffee and milky cocoa.

Palate: The wood is the top note here but it is indeed, well, mellow. There’s no tannic bite or rawness; by the same token, the fruit is mostly missing here, or maybe it’s covered up by the wood. The alcohol is pretty evident though. With time the wood does begin to become more raw. Let’s see what water does. It pushes the wood back here as well, allowing the honey to emerge.

Finish: Long. The wood keeps going and turns a bit astringent as it goes. As on the palate with water at first but then it gets quite bitter (oak extract) again at the end.

Comments: An interesting whisky that teeters constantly on the cusp of being overly woody and well-balanced. Neat, the wood is a bit too overbearing on the palate but with water it’s much better. Interesting but nothing that makes me think I should be seeking out grain whisky more often.

Rating: 82 points.

Thanks to gimmeadram for the sample.


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