Asian Delights – Nikka Whisky From the Barrel 54.1%

Our Whisky Ladies of Mumbai are no strangers to Nikka Whisky – or this particular dram From the Barrel. Our last tryst was in 2017 when we tasted From the Barrel side by side with Super Nikka.

However our evening exploring “Asian Delights” veered towards gentle uncomplicated whiskies which demanded a close with something having a bit more “Oomph!”

So out popped this beauty to round out our evening… here is what we thought…

Nikka From the Barrel 54.1%

  • Nose – Initially a bit musty, overripe fruit, had a spice kick, needed time to settle down… cloves, sweet vanilla, rum raisins, baked fruit – particularly apple and pear, increasingly fruity as it opened up more, then revealed some flowers, even a bit of talcum powder
  • Palate – Fruity, spice, bold, malty, yet missing something
  • Finish – Lingers
  • Water – Do add! Enhances the character, rounds it, lots of body, wood came forward on the palate, completes this whisky… out comes some marvellous marshmallows, very tasty on the palate even with a chasing dash of cinnamon sweetness

Overall most preferred it with water – enjoying how it brought a more accessible, enjoyable, balanced dram.

What is nice about such a compact 500 ml bottle is that we have enough left over to enjoy a dram or two but not much more. As the last few drops came home with me, it might just be time to enjoy a wee nip!

What the Nikka folks have to say:

From The Barrel is an extremely complex blended whisky bottled at 51.4% ABV. In order to deliver its richness and full flavors, the blended liquid goes into used barrels for another few months for “marriage” before it is bottled.

We enjoyed a few other whiskies in our Asian Delights evening:

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Asian Delights – Nikka Coffey Malt Whisky 45%

Much like the Akashi White Oak where we had twice sampled the Red Blend but not the Single Malt, we also tried the Nikka Coffey Grain twice but not the Malt version.

Our first blush of the Nikka Coffey Grain in 2016 made us think of piña colada… two years later when we tasted another bottle in an evening exclusively featuring grains, we still found it had a delightful desert like quality.

Both are make in Nikka’s Coffey still however the difference is that the grain is mostly made from corn whereas the malt from malted barley.

What did we think of the malted version?

Nikka Coffey Malt Whisky 45%

  • Nose – Chocolaty cream, tiramisu, marzipan, toffee, like a sweet Amarula, a caramel Irish Baily’s, candied cherries, a cherry cough syrup, banana, cinnamon
  • Palate – Soft, flat, linear, thin body, cheery and cherry, smooth
  • Finish – Hardly there
  • Water – Spicier on the nose, cream and fruit

Overall it retained a sweet dessert quality yet was heavier and darker than we remembered the Grain one… nothing complex but still satisfying and most enjoyable in its way.

Here is what the folks over at Nikka have to say about their Coffey Malt:

Coffey Malt is made from 100% malted barley. However it is not categorized as “malt whisky” but as “grain whisky” since it is not distilled in a pot still. This unique production method results in extraordinary flavors and texture.

We enjoyed a few more whiskies in our Asian Delights evening:

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Asian Delights – White Oak Akashi Single Malt 40%

Akashi Japanese whisky is actually a part of the Eigashima distillery which has made sake and shochu since the late 1880s. From 1919, the “White Oak Whisky” distillery was making whisky of sorts… however from 1984, equipped with a new pot still based on Scottish designs, the distillery started to make “proper” whisky under the brand of Akashi. While it predominantly made blends, production of single malts – like this one – started in 2007.

And while it is known as Japanese whisky, the barley and malts are imported from Scotland. In keeping with Scottish whiskies, they are aged for a minimum of 3 years however with the warmer climate in Akashi, the Angels share is considerably more than in Scotland.

For a few years now, Akashi White Oak whiskies – both the blend and single malt – can be found in Mumbai Duty Free for a reasonable price. Largely linked to this accessibility and affordability, our Whisky Ladies first sampled the blend in late 2016. We enjoyed its simple “apple cider” quality so much that we tracked down a 2nd bottle to share with the gents in a “Ladies Choice” evening early 2017.

Knowing one small bottle alone would not be sufficient, I’d called for reinforcements – and got two – both another Red Blended and this Single Malt! Both Red were opened and polished off but this bottle was kept aside, patiently waiting for the right opportunity to opened with its contributor.

Finally in March 2019 the moment came…. and what did we think?

White Oak Akashi Single Malt 40%

  • Nose – Fruity and spicy, green apples, simple and sweet, evolved into a happy candy floss, shifting to cinnamon and vanilla cream
  • Palate – Mmmmm…. apple, a bit of wood, quite pleasant, a nice spice, uncomplicated yet had some character
  • Finish – Easy going, slightly bitter

An earlier experience from an open bottle left me with the impression of bubble gum… this time? “Grown up” bubble gum!

Here’s a few more whiskies we enjoyed in our Asian Delights evening:

And our earlier Akashi tasting experiences?

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Whisky Ladies Eastern Promise – Akashi, Nikka Coffey + From the Barrel, Kavalan

Over the years, we’ve had the occasional opportunity to revisit or explore a “sibling” of a particular whisky. This was very much the case in our March Whisky Ladies session where each whisky was a variation on a familiar theme… yet distinctly different too!

Whisky Ladies Asian Delights

Even when revisiting the same whisky, each experience is unique – what we discover from a fresh bottle differs from an open one, what we found in a different year, mood, context influences our experience…

That’s the fun of exploring whiskies together – we contrast and compare – both the whiskies and our individual impressions. When it is with terrific company and a lovely setting, what could be more enjoyable?

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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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