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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BMC goes to Japan – Hibiki, Nikka, Miyagikyo, Hakushu

This month our Bombay Malt and Cigar gents moved in a different direction…. far far far away from Scotland to land on Japan.

After much grumbling and discussion of how Japanese whiskies price has shot through the roof, we settle down to give the drams a proper try… noting that there was a narry an age statement in sight!

And what did we sample in our jaunt to Japan?

Which was followed by cigars (naturally!) home-made sushi, tempura, chicken teriyaki skewers, Thai curry and stewed peaches with much merriment joined by our partners too!

Interested in more whiskies from Japan and Taiwan? Check out the Asia section…

Or previous tastings of:

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Whisky Live Singapore – Nikka

Next up after the Teeling trio at the Whisky Live Singapore was Nikka. It was such a treat to try their whiskies side by side in this way… my previous experiences were all separated by months or years, in quite different contexts where it would be impossible to make a connect between the different whisky characters.

With the exception of the Nikka 12 year, all were NAS – a trend that cannot be helped with the popularity of Nikka Japanese whiskies over the years.


Miyagikyo NAS 45%

  • Miyagikyo has always struck me as a charming whisky… I last had a Miyagikyo 15 year 45% however had not sampled the new NAS
  • What did I find? Simply too young for my taste and not the nuanced delight I hoped for… must admit it was a bit disappointing


Yoichi NAS 45%

  • By contrast, Yoichi has singularly impressed me with its bold character – particularly the Yoichi 10 year 45%
  • In my ‘speed dating’ revisit of the NAS Yoichi, what did I find? It still had character however I confess I’m looking forward to a return (hopefully) of a more mature avatar


Pure Malt NAS 43%

  • I’ve had a few Pure Malt whiskies over the years, most of which have not made it to our proper tastings – most recently the venerable Pure Malt 21 year in Winnipeg which did make it into my stash to revisit
  • As for this NAS Pure Malt? It was more sherry berry than I remembered, also much more spice… certainly moving in the right direction


The Nikka 12 year 43%

  • No stranger to this dram, The Nikka 12 year featured in a ‘Far East’ themed evening earlier in 2016
  • What was the fleeting impression in my revisit? Fruity spice – an easy drinking dram, nicely balanced


Nikka Whisky from The Barrel 51.4%

  • Similarly, this wasn’t my first sample of ‘From the Barrel’ – it first found its way into our tasting sessions in 2014
  • No doubt this was intended to be the flourishing finish with its contrasting character of ripe plums, wood, sweet and spice… however equally this is a whisky best given time and a mere nip simply doesn’t do it justice


No regrets stopping by to sample the Nikka whiskies however I hope their popularity does not eclipse the possibility of giving a bit more time to let their single malts mature…

For more details on earlier Nikka tasting experiences, check out:

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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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Nikka Blended Whisky 40%

We’ve been on a bit of a Japanese whisky roll for sometime now… From Nikka alone, have sampled:

So when there was an opportunity to try this at our November Whisky Ladies evening, who could resist?

What did we find?

Nikka Blended Whisky 40%
  • Nose – Papaya and then some seriously strong pineapple, very fruity, bursting with the tropics, “It is having a party in my nose!” Some honey, vanilla… A little sprig of sage
  • Palate – Smooth, creamy, ginger, cinnamon, bay leaf, soft and buttery, chocolate
  • Finish – The most disappointing part of the whisky, some black pepper, there but… after such a remarkable nose and interesting palate… bit of a let down really
  • With water – Nose took on apples, even more honey, apple pie, a bright perfume and the taste pure candy! Even the finish became sweet candies. One observed that with water it is a bit like “burping pears!”
  • Comments – “It’s like Victor / Victoria!” “Completely schizo!”

Quite flirtatious and quixotic, not at all straight forward, some complexity and just kept changing… now it is spicy, now it is sweet, now it is  spicy… sweet… spicy… sweet…

This one sure sparked a lot of conversation. The final conclusion was it is a very ‘gemini’ whisky with two faces… at one time all sweetness and light and then it turns around and jolts you “What the heck?”

Nikka’s two distilleries – Yoichi and Miyagikyo have a serious yin yang thing going on… The peaty Yoichi‘s are quite masculine whereas by contrast Miyagikyo’s whiskies tend to be quite delicate, nuanced and light.

The funny thing is even after all the conversation and all the exclamations, is it a ‘wow’ whisky? No. But definitely very interesting.

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Singapore sipping – Miyagikyo 15 year 45%

The wonderful thing about Singapore is that even places that are primarily for post-work beers such as The Bank Bar + Bistro near Asia Square stock a decent collections of whiskies.

Interestingly the server shared how they are pushing patrons towards the Glenfarclas and away from the Japanese whiskies they earlier promoted. Perhaps due to the rising prices and scarcity of the Japanese whiskies they are simply working through the remaining stock and trying to encourage a return to old faithfuls from Scotland?

20151203_The Bank

Naturally of the whiskies on offer, my eye was drawn to the Miyagikyo… particularly the 15 year. Yet  horror of all horrors, they serve in standard glasses. Oh… my inner whisky snob is definitely surfacing!

What did I find with the whisky?

  • Nose – Very sweet! Lots of toffee, fudge, mild spice…. apples… stewed apples to be precise
  • Palate – Can I just say – yum? Malty, bit of spice, a little bitter cinnamon bark, dry, has a good mouthfeel… a toffee sweetness
  • Finish – Definitely malty, quite pleasant with a splash of spice. Nice that it doesn’t just dash off but instead settles in for a friendly visit

No tropical fruits or other citrus elements, no perfume or sea salt. Why mention what its not? Well… normally I expect something more from the nose for a Japanese whisky. This one didn’t seem to have such layers of complexity on the nose… It also didn’t have the decidedly ‘feminine’ quality I was anticipating from a Miyagikyo. However in fairness… take one look at the picture and you know it wasn’t exactly sampled using optimal tasting glassware!

Overall the yumminess of the whisky and quite lovely finish more than compensated. In short – delightful.


Curious to see what others think, before publishing this post I looked up what the “Chaps at Master of Malt” have to say… OK this is scary… I swear I did not look at their notes before writing mine. I pinky swear it! But it does seem to back-up the impression of lovely but not so complex on the nose…

Tasting Notes by the chaps at Master of Malt

  • Nose: Very sweet with vanilla fudge, toffee apple and spice. A straightforward nose, without heaps of complexity, but very charming nonetheless.
  • Palate: Malty, toffeyed, and generically fruity, this is a great session dram – not too heavy, and very pleasing.
  • Finish: Spices, hints of granary toast. Malty.

Related posts about Nikka whiskies:

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