Whisky Ladies Grain – Nikka Coffey Grain 45%

When our Whisky Ladies set out to explore grains, we just so happened to include one we had sampled before – the Nikka Coffey Grain.

Our earlier impression was of a sun soaked piña colada masquerading as a coconut fruity whisky.

So what did we think on our revisit? Juxtaposed next to other grain whiskies from Scotland and Japan?

Nikka Coffey Grain 45%

  • Nose – Quite aromatic and herbal! Has character, toffee, brown sugar, coconut, some vanilla, sweet corn and a hint of sweet lemon, pear
  • Palate – Sooooooo sweet, silky soft and gentle, loads of that toffee
  • Finish – Sweeter note

One exclaimed “Well this is a fun whisky to meet!” Another shared it certainly is one to satisfy a sweet tooth – like a dessert dram!

For those who had tried it in our earlier session remarked that while there certainly was some coconut, it did not have that delightful almost over enthusiastic tropical piña colada quality.

When we considered the grains sampled so far – Haig, Chita and now this Nikka – there was little doubt the Nikka had the most character.

What do the folks over at Nikka have to say?

Coffey Grain is predominantly made from corn and distilled in a Coffey Still. The complex, sweet and mellow flavors of this expression will help you re-discover the beauty of a grain whisky.
The Coffey Still is the world’s first patented continuous still invented by Mr. Aeneas Coffey in 1830. Masataka Taketsuru valued the feature of this type of still, which retains the flavors of ingredients and also creates a distinctive texture. Coffey Grain and Coffey Malt are Nikka’s signature grain whiskies which show the beauty of our Coffey Stills.

And what would a bottle set you back? You can find it online in the UK for approx £55. We tasted it in September 2018 from an open bottle.

PS – Photo credit goes to our contributor Nikolina Berg.

What did the Whisky Ladies try in their Grain evening?

You can find more on a page dedicated just to Grains here.

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Whisky Ladies Grain – The Chita 43%

Most would be familiar with Suntory’s popular Hibiki blend which brings together the Chita grain with Hakushu and Yamazaki. For many years, Suntory kept Chita nearly ‘secret’ in Japan – with no exports available.

I remember when I first picked up a bottle in Tokyo  (July 2014) – our tasting group in Mumbai were astounded by its exquisite, perfumed and nuanced character. Before featuring it in an article on Japanese whiskies, I reached out to the folks at Suntory to ask if they had any plans to market Chita outside of Japan. That was mid 2015 and the answer was “not yet” with plans clearly afoot to change that state sooner than later.

So when the NAS export version “The Chita” became available at Singapore duty-free a year later, I was excited to try it! Thanks to a “speed dating” sample sip at the airport, I had this chance, however didn’t discover much of what made our original experience so interesting.

Since then we’ve had more grains and know to calibrate expectations. And as always, the best thing about exploring whiskies with a tasting group – in this case the Whisky Ladies – is the different impressions which includes those who come with a fresh open approach not coloured by past experiences.

So what did we collectively think?

The Chita 43%

  • Nose – Light banana, vanilla, soft wood, almond, light perfume, honey
  • Palate – Lemon and pepper, sweet, pleasant, uncomplicated, more of that light perfume in the flavours and definitely more honey too
  • Finish – Simple, sweet yet satisfying

Overall we pronounced this one for the “easy drinking” category. Completely pleasant and one that could be brought out as an enjoyable uncomplicated option. One lady shared  she generally keeps a bottle of The Chita stocked and prefers it with ice and a splash of water for a simple refreshing wind-down drink.

What is interesting to note is that while the age is not stated, part of the character comes from the grain aging in a variety of casks – American White Oak, Spanish Oak and wine. This combination is given credit to producing a grain that is mild and smooth.

Suntory shares that they’ve produced grain as “dashi” or a broth base for their blends since 1972.  Yet only with the craze for Japanese whiskies globally and a growing interest in grain as a category on its own has The Chita become available since 2016.

And what do they have to say?

Shinji Fukuyo describes The Chita Single Grain Whisky as the “serenity of Japanese whisky.” Like the misty, calm seas of the Chita Peninsula on a day of elegant stillness, this airy whisky has a presence that is unmistakably serene.

“There is a quiet confidence and tenderness in our grain whiskies. These qualities allow them to be their own heroes, whether in a blend or featured as a single grain whisky.”

From the House of Suntory Whisky, a mild, smooth single grain whisky with unparalleled sophistication and a clean, clear finish.

  • Colour: Bright gold
  • Nose: Creme brûlée, cardamon, acacia honey, blossoming rose
  • Palate: Mild and smooth, hint of mint, deep honey
  • Finish: Clean and clear, spiced oak with subtle bittersweet notes

And what would a bottle of The Chita set you back? You can find it at Changi airport in Singapore for approx SGD 80 / USD 60 / INR 4,250. By Asian standards that is quite reasonable and more importantly, it is available in several airports in the region making it easy to pick up too. From that perspective, it is an easy buy for an easy drinking alternative.

PS – Photo credit goes to our whisky contributor Paula McGlynn

What else did the Whisky Ladies try in our Grain evening?

You can find more on a page dedicated just to Grains here.

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Grain Whiskies – Haig, Chita, Nikka, Cambus

Though the humble grain is mostly found in blends, the Whisky Ladies are no stranger to exploring grains…

Just a couple that come to mind include….

All of our earlier grain experiences were mingled with trying malts or blends, so when it came time to decide a theme anchored by Suntory’s grain whisky Chita, we decided to go all out with grains!

We put out the word and here is what turned up!

And here is a selection of other grain tasting experiences:

You can find more on a page dedicated just to Grains here.

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Yamazaki 25 year Sherry Cask 43%

There is no question that Japan, and specifically Suntory, has produced some exquisite whiskies over the years. Yamazaki holds a core place in Japanese whiskies rise in global prominence.

In recent years the Yamazaki 2016 Sherry has auctioned for as much as EUR 1,950! To then think of what a 25 year old can attract? This particular whisky is an official bottling and my whisky companions and I shared a small sample in April 2018.

(Image Master of Malt)

Yamazaki 25 year Sherry Cask 43%

  • Colour – Incredibly dark – almost unbelievable
  • Nose – Varnish, old wood, dark fruits, stewed plums, cloves, cinnamon, star anise, Christmas cake, enriched spices of nutmeg, butter cream, coriander
  • Palate – Very sweet, spices, very dry, more of the star anise, some dark juicy fruits or berries, a little cocoa
  • Finish – Long, solid with some bitter tannins
  • Water – One would ordinarily think at 43% the addition of water would be a crime. In this case, with such a concentrated flavours, it helped to open  up the whisky in the most marvellous way

Overall it was a brilliant whisky – rich, complex, intense. And one well worth sampling if you happen to be so fortunate to come across it.

I will admit that most Yamazaki’s I’ve enjoyed were long before I started to record tasting notes and most certainly before prices rose astronomically. However here are two Yamazaki‘s that stand out which I had the pleasure of sampling in the last few years:

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An evening with Krishna Nakula

Evenings with Krishna Nakula, India’s Malt Maniac are always a pleasure. This time we meandered through a malty mix.. with our evening featuring a duo from Amrut!

Added to the mix was an amiable amble through the contrasting:

Plus a sniff and swish through:

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Random whisky tasting at KODE

When we started our different whisky tasting clubs in Mumbai it was at a time where the offerings readily available beyond whiskies personally brought into the country were rather limited. Fast forward and today it is possible to have a respectable flight… right here in the city… for a price.

That shared, we likely won’t see many single casks entering anytime soon… in part because to import requires donating a “sample” for testing purposes. When a product has only say 100 bottles in the world and to sell at best a handful in a particular state, it becomes impossible to justify such a “donation”.

So while the more unusual limited edition specimens likely won’t show up anytime soon,  the overall range is sufficient for those curious to be inducted into the world of single malts and whiskies in general.

Which is exactly what we sat down to accomplish one fine evening at KODE in Mumbai early April.

My sampling companions and I warned the waiter that we would be requesting different bottles, sniffing then selecting so to be patient with us. And they were.

We began with a clear progression from light to distinctive profiles…

I’d initially thought to start with Compass Box Hedonism as it is such an unusual yet light whisky. They were just out of stock, so shifted instead to a readily accessible “appetizer”:

Our palates now acclimated, our real journey began with:

I then wanted to shift gears to start to discern more subtle complex flavours… It was wishful thinking to hope Glendronach 18 year might be available however did have a choice between the 12, 15 and 21 year... We went with:

  • Scotland – Glendronach – Glendronach 15 year “Revival” 46%*

Then split into the following to cater to the emerging different palate preferences of my sampling companions:

As conversation veered towards talk of casks and the difference between a Scottish single malt and Bourbon, I thought it would be good to do a wee detour to the US to contrast what we sampled so far with Bourbon & Rye:

Then proceeded to compare the nuances between very similar whiskies from Glenmorangie that have different finishes:

  • Scotland – Highland – Glenorangie Lasanta 12 year 46% – Olorosso & PX Sherrry finish
  • Scotland – Highland – Glenmorangie Quinta Ruban 12 year 46% – Port finish

And finally we closed with a split between revisiting whiskies that “stood” out for my companions:

*Just in case you were wondering what all the “asterisk” mean… each of these bottles were brought into India thanks to Keshav Prakash with The Vault Fine Spirits. I’m incredibly proud of what Keshav and his team have achieved and have made a huge impact on the range now available in Mumbai. Thank you!

KODE – Freestyle Bar and Kitchen

Ground Floor – 11, Oasis City, Kamala Mills – Entrance #2, Lower Parel,, Mumbai, Lower Parel, Mumbai, Mumbai, Maharashtra 400013. Tel: 077188 82924

PS It may seem like an insane quantity of whisky but keep in mind we were splitting 30 ml singles – focusing more on sniffing, swishing and savouring.

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Japan Jaunt – Hakushu 43%

After two blends and a Nikka single malt from Miyagikyo distillery, the last in our “Japanese Jaunt” was a single malt from Suntory’s Hakushu distillery.

It was certainly not my 1st experience with Hakushu… Once upon a time the 18 year old was a favourite until it became highly elusive. Then our original tasting group sampled the NAS avatar.… followed by the Whisky Ladies… leaving only our Bombay Malt & Cigar gents to sample… which happened one fine evening in March 2018.

Hakushu NAS 43%

  • Nose – Plunged into a wet forest, light peat, crisp apples, pine needles, fresh bark, aniseed, a bit of spice, pistachios, green sap, very fresh and sweet
  • Palate – Hugs the tongue, very soft and a great mouthfeel, citrus spice, bitter almond with a light spice chaser and a puff of smoke
  • Finish – Bitter sweet finish with more of the aniseed coming to the fore
  • Water – Like the Miyagikyo, absolutely no temptation to add

Overall it was pronounced “very nice” until the topic of its price was raised. Which sparked a debate about whether Japanese whiskies are truly worth the hype.

Whether you think yes or no, the bottom line is our evening was filled with finely crafted whiskies with a range of characters and it was a most enjoyable exploration.

Here’s what the folks at Suntory have to say about their Hakushu distillery:

Straight from the untouched forests, soft and crisp waters and mountains of the Southern Japanese Alps, it is no wonder that Hakushu is a “green and fresh” whisky. Created by the dream for a new type of whisky of Keizo Saji, the second master brender, the unique taste made in distinct.

Four seasons in high altitude is praised by the most curious whisky connoisseurs and lovers of gastronomy. Its crisp and vibrant feel, unique in a single malt whisky, enlivens and liberates your senses.

What else did we taste in our “Japan Jaunt“?

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Japan Jaunt – Miyagikyo 45%

After two quite different blends – the Hibiki and All Malt – we shifted gears into single malts starting with the Miyagikyo from Nikka. Miyagikyo is known to be the lighter more nuanced of the two Nikka single malts, a contrast from the robust Yoichi.

Miyagikyo NAS 45%

  • Nose – Floral, citrus – particularly kumquat, spring, cherry blossoms, gooseberry, with a dash of spice peaking behind
  • Palate – Almost fizzy, a lot of white pepper, very sweet, fruity and a bit bitter
  • Finish – Very spicy, long and dry
  • Water – No inclination to add whatsoever

There is a light elegance and feminine quality to this whisky. Which means it is either a style one appreciates or does not.

What was interesting in our Japanese explorations was there was narry an age statement in sight – a sign of the times with whiskies from Japan.

And what do the folks at Nikka have to say about the Miyakgikyo?

This is a single malt from the Miyagikyo distillery, Nikka’s second distillery built in 1969. The founder Masataka Taketsuru chose this site in the mountains of Sendai to contrast with his first distillery, Yoichi, located in the coastal area. Using less peaty malt and distilled in a pot still heated by indirect steam, Miyagikyo single malt has an elegant fruitiness and a distinctive aroma with a strong Sherry cask influence.

What did we taste in our “Japan Jaunt”?

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Japan Jaunt – Nikka’s All Malt 40%

After the Suntory’s Hibiki blend, our Japan jaunt shifted to a vatted / blended malt from Nikka. This particular dram brings together single malt from Yoichi and Miyagikyo pot stills with a Coffey malt whisky. Hence the name “All Malt” as each of its components are malted.

Nikka All Malt 40%

  • Nose – Burnt toffee, sherry like, rich chocolate, burnt caramel custard or a creme brule, hazelnut, dusting of cinnamon, coffee
  • Palate – “Dessert in a glass” Delicious, cigar base, smooth and soft, mellow, Parsi daily milk toffee
  • Finish – Long drawn out… stays
  • Water – Absolutely no temptation to add water

Overall we found it quite satisfying. No pretence – just a solid blend – pure and rich are indeed a good way to describe it. One remarked that it had an almost highland quality.

For an evening with cigars, it more than held its own… an important quality in a good whisky for these gents!

The Nikka All Malt also buck the pricey trend with Japanese whisky – keeping to a below $50 range (depending on where you buy it).

And what else did we sample in our Japan Jaunt?

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Japan Jaunt – Hibiki “Masters Select” 43%

Our Bombay Malt and Cigar gents began as staunchly preferring Scottish Single Malts. And while one could explore for years and years and still be scratching the surface of Scottish expressions, it is nice to veer in a different direction too.

Hence our host’s theme of Japanese whiskies. He admitted that he’s a bit “late” to the Japanese craze and somewhat aghast at the prices for such drams. However curiosity plus a few duty free stops lead to acquiring a quartet of two blends and two single malts, covering a range from Japan’s two most popular whisky companies – Suntory and Nikka.

1st up was Hibiki from Suntory – a blend of their single malts Yamazaki and Hakushu together with their grain Chita. What did the gents think?

Hibiki Japanese Harmony “Master’s Select” NAS 43%

  • Nose – Malty coffee caramel, oranges, elder flower, opens to forest green
  • Palate – Dances along the surface, lightly piquant, different elements, bitter almond
  • Finish – Bitter
  • Water – Rounds out

We set it aside and revisited after finishing our sampling of all four whiskies. What did we find?

  • Soft sweet and slightly salty
  • Fairly innocuous

Overall we pronounced it a “happy” drinking whisky. Not complex, but it doesn’t need to be. A perfect “starter” whisky for those who are new to the world of whisky and curious to try something from Japan. Translation – what we would serve at parties if just happened to have an open bottle and not be terribly upset if it is emptied by the end of the evening.

I’ve had several trysts with Hibiki – its earlier 12 and 17 year incarnations, part of a blind tasting with our original club when the NAS expression 1st launched years ago plus a rather nice chocolate pairing with the Whisky Ladies. Which means this particular expression has graced all three Mumbai based whisky tasting clubs.

I once even attempted to create my own version of Hibiki bringing together a few drops of an older Yamazaki with the Hakushu 18 year and Chita 12 year. While not disastrous, I’m clearly no master blender!

And what else did we sample in our Japanese jaunt?

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