The Nikka 12 year 43%

Over the years I’ve had a few opportunities to sample Nikka blends – bringing together the yin yang quality of their single malts Yoichi and Miyagikyo.

Specifically the The Nikka 12 year marries three elements – malt whisky from Yoichi and Miyagikyo with grain whisky distilled in a Coffey still.

Amusingly, our ‘Far East’ sampling of The Nikka began with dispelling the misconception that ‘coffey’ has anything to do with ‘coffee!’ Funny how our brain works… trying to sniff out a whiff of your morning brew even when ‘coffey’ refers to the kind of still Aeneas Coffey patented which revolutionised liquor production in the mid-1800s.

We also shared how Miyagikyo distillery is known for its lighter, more delicate and nuanced ‘feminine’ whiskies. Whereas the Yoichi distillery has a reputation for more robust, often peatland more ‘masculine’ whiskies.

The Nikka 12 year

The Nikka 12 year 43%

While I didn’t take notes at the time, walked away with an impression of:

  • Nose – Fruity with pineapple, apples and pears, coconut, hint of peat, some vanilla sweetness
  • Palate – Barley with just a dash of sweet spices and toffee, and while very much in the sweeter side still had some substance
  • Finish – Light pepper, slightly woodsy

Overall a most enjoyable dram. Accessible, well-balanced and easy to just sip.

Pitched as a more affordable age statement, The Nikka 12 year has collected a number of awards to its credit and is currently easier to track down than many other Japanese whiskies.

The Nikka 12 year up close

Here’s what the folks over at Nikka have to say about their 12 year:

There is nothing more suitable than a blended whisky to represent Nikka’s way of whisky making.

The asymmetry design of the bottle is inspired by the neck of a “Kimono”, just as if the layers visualize all the passion and craftsmanship devoted in the history of Nikka. The honorable golden emblem engraved was designed by Masataka Taketsuru for his very first Nikka whisky bottle.

Malty, soft and well-balanced, this expression portrays our gratitude to the heritage and our will to advance our tradition.

We then continued our evening by selecting one element in The Nikka to explore further – Yoichi’s new NAS single malt expression.

If you are curious, here’s what others have to say about The Nikka 12 year:

And Whisky Lady notes to a few related whisky explorations…

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Sake whisky – Togouchi Kiwami 40%

We’ve tried whiskies before that have a decidedly rummy character, an extra anejo tequila with a whisky-like aspect, but a whisky with a clear unmistakable sake stamp? This was a first.

This was also my first foray into Togouchi whiskies and what a surprise. While blended in Japan and clearly catering to the Japanese palate (plus the demand for whiskies from Japan globally), the new make spirit is not actually Japanese.

Instead, the whiskies are a blend of distilled Canadian grain and Scottish malt which is imported to Japan, then aged in primarily ex bourbon casks, diluted with water sourced from the Sandankyo National Park and blended by Chugoku Jozo‘s master blenders in Hiroshima prefecture.

What adds to the mystique is most (apparently not all!) Togouchi whisky is aged in barrels stored in a 361 meters long tunnel that was built for a railway in the 1970s but never used. This unique warehouse near the town of Togouchi boasts that it can maintain an optimal constant temperature around 14°C and 80% humidity.

As for the whisky we sampled, ‘Kawami’ means ‘supreme’ (or ‘height’) and was created as a limited edition non-peated expression for the French market.

Togouchi Kiwami

Togouchi Kiwami 40%

What did we find?

  • Nose – Very mild, think camomile tea or flowers, soft and gentle
  • Palate – Not nearly as smooth as the nose suggested, had a raw ‘new make spirit’ feel yet oddly solid for a whisky that had such a light, bright nose. Some found the in your face ‘alcohol’ content a bit off-putting. For others the grain element was simply too pronounced.
  • Finish – Was there one? We certainly didn’t find any

As we debated and attempted to distill the character of this unusual blend, we kept thinking of sake. No surprise, the Chogoku Jozo folks are better known for their sake and shochu with the Kawami specifically, in our ever so humble opinion, coming across as a whisky masquerading as sake.

In fact, when we were ready to move on to our next whisky, a few knocked it back like a shot and went “Wow!” Declaring this is THE way to have Togouchi Kawami.

PS… our host admitted to being a bit disappointed with the Kawami and pulled out a different Togouchi expression (suspect it was the Togouchi Premium) that was silky smooth, soft and an utter delight.

Want to learn more?

Other whiskies sampled during our far east evening in Mumbai:

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Nikka From the Barrel NAS 51.4%

From time to time, travel trumps attending our monthly tasting session. However our Nov 2014 evening was too unique to miss! Four whiskies from four different countries… I simply HAD to convince our host to do a special ‘make-up’ session.

Luckily it didn’t take too much arm-twisting when I could bribe him with a whiskies from a session he missed which featured Tyrconnel, Ledaig 1997 and Talisker Dark Storm.

What follows is a blend of another member’s notes with mine for your reading pleasure… 

Nikki from the barrel

Nikka From the Barrel NAS 51.4%, Japan, Nikka distillery

  • Colour – Warm wheat
  • Nose – Plum cake, fruit basket, mild citrus aroma, bold & woody yet unmistakably sweet
  • Palate – Sweet on the first sip, then slightly spicy finish, mild hint of leather and cinnamon. When returning after 20 mins – pure sweet smoothness
  • Finish – Comes out to say an exuberant ‘hello!’ with sassy spice
  • Water – Shot up the spice, but then settled

This blend reminds that sometimes it is worth playing around – in this case blend and then re-cask to further mature.

Definitely worth trying but not a future purchasing priority. Somehow the overall impression was interesting but not spectacular ‘I’m in heaven!’ kinda reaction. And definitely not in the same league as Nikka’s Taketsuru Pure Malt 17 year...  however to be fair not in the same price point either.

So there you have it! Our humble impressions of Nikka From the Barrel.

Do check out what others have to say too…

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