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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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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Piña colada whisky – Nikka Coffey Grain 45%

Naturally our Whisky Ladiesfar east‘ trilogy closed with an offering from Japan. Japanese whiskies are known for their ability to craft exquisite top-notch quality whiskies. Nikka certainly has put out a number of quite fabulous whiskies.

Given the bold Kavalan Solist cask strength whisky, we took care to clear our palates and recalibrate our thinking before sampling this grain whisky. We knew it would be much more delicate and nuanced.

To help switch gears from the strong coffee quality of the Kavalan, we were reminded to think ‘coffey stills’ not ‘coffee.’ Our whisky contributor shared that the whisky is named for the type of ‘coffey’ stills used by Nikka. These column stills were enhanced by Aeneas Coffey, who patented his approach which revolutionised liquor production in the mid-1800s.

Here’s what the folks over at Nikka have to say about this particular whisky:

This Grain Whisky is distilled in a “Coffey still”, which is a very traditional and rare patent still Nikka imported from Scotland in 1963. The Coffey still produces a complex whisky with a mellow and sweet taste originating from the grain itself. Please enjoy the uniqueness of this whisky which Nikka offers to the connoisseurs.

Nikka Coffey Grain

Nikka Coffey Grain

Here is what we found:

  • Colour – Bright gold
  • Nose – Piña colada with coconut, pineapple, lots of tropical dry fruits, sweet as in very sweet, some struggled to get past the ‘alcohol’, vanilla, a little dry papaya, one of those high-end granola cereals chock full of dry fruits
  • Palate – Mmm… some spice, butter, coconut, honey, light banana, quite subtle, only when taking a big swig does the spice peak out
  • Finish – Back to piña colada
  • Water – Adds a little spice and caramel but not really needed

For a setting, we thought would be a perfect pre-dinner whisky to get things started. Or one to sip while having a good chat with a friend where the whisky accompanies nicely but doesn’t command attention or distract from the focus on a good conversation.

Overall it is quite restrained as a whisky, elegant, smooth and easy to drink. It is hard not think this is targeted at what marketeers thing appeals to women, stereotyping preferences for sweet  piña colada like beverages with frilly umbrellas.

What do our whisky ladies of Mumbai have to say?

  • “Instagram whisky with a soft filter”
  • “Gee… are they trying to say this is a woman’s whisky with pretty pink packaging?”
  • “Gateway whisky… easily accessible but…”

In short, most of our lasses prefer a bit less pina colada and a bit more substance and complexity.

That doesn’t mean this isn’t a decent whisky. It absolutely is. However it doesn’t quite hit the preferred character for our whisky women. Talk turned to Yoichi and Nikka’s Taketsuru Pure Malt and away from what was right in front of us.

Just to check if we were missing anything, took a gander at the tasting notes on the bottle:

  • Nose: Fresh and enticing, it reveals ripe pear, cherry and exotic fruit aromas. Citrus notes of blood orange and lemon appear, slowly giving way to more subtle floral scents. With air, aromas of pastry, coconut and bourbon vanilla emerge, with underlying notes of mint and a hint of musk.
  • Palate: Juice and pleasant, the promises of the nose are kept. Intense ripe fruit with rum accents (banana) and caramel. The complexity develops with hints of liquorice and star anise. The mid-palate shows more fruit, dominated by pear nectar and quickly moving on to creamier notes with an omnipresent freshness.
  • Finish: Just as pleasant as on the palate with pear and vanilla bourbon, ending on a very nice light bitter touch.

Do we agree? Well… once they mentioned pear, that rang true. But complex? Musk? Intense ripe fruit?? Hmm… and not one mention of  piña coladas??

Other Nikka whiskies sampled til date:

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Whisky Ladies visit the Far East – Kavalan + Nikka

Our whisky ladies tend to travel – both for business and pleasure.

This is a huge bonus when you are a whisky fan based in Mumbai as our local offerings are relatively limited.

When one member was stopping at Singapore airport on her return from a conference, she asked for suggestions and ably rose to the assignment to acquire a whisky from Taiwan.

Another runs her own travel adventure company plus her spouse shares her passion for exploring whiskies. Compliments of their procurement prowess, we already sampled the yin yang contradictory character of Nikka Blended Whisky. So when a theme of ‘anything but Scottish whisky’ morphed into the ‘Far East’…. naturally she had a whisky from Japan to share!

We began our evening with an experiment… our host infused grapefruit and rosemary with a local gin to create a highly refreshing aperitif – delightful!

Kavalana Concertmaster, Solist + Nikka Coffey Grain

Kavalan Concertmaster, Solist + Nikka Coffey Grain

We then moved on to our main focus where we contrasted and compared:

From the shores of Taiwan and Japan, we hit mainland China to try a country liquor that was much more fun to puzzle out how to open than taste! It was, in short, undrinkable.

Finally closed our evening with a thimble of JD Tennessee Honey liqueur to go with our chocolate pizza – yum!

It was a delightful change to explore whiskies beyond Scotland for an evening and a reminder that there is a very good reason Kavalan attracts attention for its Solist range.

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