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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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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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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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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“Super Nikka Whisky”

After spending time exploring the Nikka “From the Barrel” at our Whisky Ladies “Diwali Drams” evening, we compared it with a revival of an earlier incarnation of their standard “Super Nikka Whisky”.

What did our Whisky Ladies think?

Super Nikka Revival Whisky 43% (Limited Edition for Europe, 2015)

  • Nose – Candy floss, that Hallowe’en candy corn of brightly coloured kernels of yellow, orange and white tips, caramel nuttiness, a sweet almond paste, cola that has gone flat, then from somewhere an unlit charcoal, slightly musty, a hint of chocolate? A dash of pine?
  • Palate – Deceptively sweet, well rounded, light smoke to counter balance the sweet, was there a hint of sea salt too? Regardless of the different elements, they all merged together harmoniously
  • Finish – Lovely finish, cinnamon sweet though a bit abrupt – here then gone.
  • Water – Interestingly, this is the one we tried with water… it nicely reduces the sweetness, adds a dash of spice like a spice guava, making it overall even more enjoyable

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

One of Nikka’s classic brands, the Super Nikka was introduced to the market in 1962. Its luxuriant aroma, gentle hints of peat and scent of vanilla and chocolate are all in harmony, and its flavor is smooth, rounded and well-balanced.

Believe it or not, a fellow whisky aficionado in Mumbai has one of the original’s from the 1960s… I’m sensing we just may need to track down one of the ‘new’ avatars and do a comparison one of these days…

And the results of our “head to head”?

The Nikka Super Whisky was the most popular – for its sociable character in keeping with the mood of the evening. And yet there is no doubt the “From the Barrel” is a fine dram that demands attention.

And yes… I was caught blathering on about context being everything in choice… whisky preferences for me, at least, are highly mood, setting and company dependent. What I love in one context I may not care for in another and vis-a-versa. But that is another tale for another day…

The “Super Nikka” we sampled had recently been opened and tasted at our October 2017 Mumbai session, last seen on Master of Malt for $55 (sold out).

Whiskies sampled in our Diwali Drams evening included:

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Nikka’s “From the Barrel”

Last in the Whisky Ladies “Diwali Drams” evening was a “head to head” comparison between two Nikka blends – their cask strength “From the Barrel” and a revival of an earlier incarnation of their standard “Super Nikka Whisky”.

Most would know that Nikka, the company, uses “Nikka” as the brand name for their range of whisky blends which are either:

Both our whiskies fall into the “blend” category… What did our Whisky Ladies think?

Nikka From the Barrel 51.4%

  • Nose – Coconut, like sweet honey nectar, fruits like pears, a bit of acetone, then coriander (or cilantro or… there was a debate on the different varieties!). After a sip, the nose gained some oil and nuts, then shifted into marshmallow and candied nuts.
  • Palate – We found it was like melted caramel, dense and buttery like a maple butter tart, some sweet raisins too… quite thick on the palate
  • Finish – Last and last and lasts.

Some absolutely loved it! Appreciating how it is bursting with character, a complex drink, one where a little goes a long way.

Words like “Fabulous!” and “Mmmm” could be heard. The finish in particular was described as a “Fabulous, fantastic finish!” And exclaims of how well it could pair with certain food too.

And yet for some, this was almost too much… in its sweet aromas, its dense concentration of flavours and long finish.

What do the folks at Nikka have to say about “From the Barrel”?

This is a blend of multiple types of malt and grain that Nikka reserves. Nikka From the Barrel was created to deliver full flavors and richness of whisky “from barrels” which only blenders can sniff and taste. As the whisky contains so many characteristic components at a higher alcohol of 51.4%, it is essential to let the liquid “marriage” in used casks for 3-6 months for it to stabilize and harmonize. The concept of the unique short squared bottle is “a small lump of whisky”, which perfectly visualizes the rich and strong taste of the whisky inside.

PS – There may be added colour i.e. caramel.

So then how did it stack up against the “Super Nikka”? Read on soon….

The Nikka “From the Barrel” is a 50 cl bottle, sometimes found in duty free for around $50-75 and was opened during our session.

Whiskies sampled in our Diwali Drams evening included:

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Whisky Ladies Diwali Drams from Japan + Bhutan

Gathering bedecked in their colourful finery, the Whisky Ladies came together to enjoy some interesting Diwali Drams… specifically from Japan and Bhutan.

And while we didn’t gamble at cards, we did pit together different whiskies to see which prevailed!

What all did we sample as part of our Diwali celebrations?

Whisky Ladies Drams (Photo: Nikoulina Berg)

Just click on the whisky links above to read more about what we discovered…

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Nikka Taketsuru Pure Malt 21 year 43%

Friends in Canada picked up this bottle years ago in Tokyo… It was opened during my visit to Winnipeg in June 2016 and a small sample made its way back to India to be tasted again.

Nikka‘s vatted malt or “pure malt” marries single malts from Yoichi and Miyagikyo without any grain whisky. This particular Taketsuru 21 won World’s Best Blended Malt Whisky at the World Whiskies Awards – 2007, 2009, 2010 and 2011. Given this, we had high hopes of a superlative whisky of exceptional quality, complexity and balance.

Nikka Pure Malt 21

Nikka Taketsuru Pure Malt 21 year 43%

  • Nose – Prunes, a sour quality like soya sauce or a rich winey vinegar, sweet resin, tart, sweet spices, basil, a hint of dark bitter chocolate, acai, tight dry cranberries, vanilla essence
  • Palate – Very tart, cinnamon bark, dry ginger, oak, haldi (tumeric), slightly soapy quality
  • Finish – Long, very dry, both bitter and sweet at the same time with sweet spices like cloves and cinnamon with a surprising kick that sneaks up on you then lingers…

Overall, when first sampled in Winnipeg, I found vanilla honey warm into caramel, it was clearly rich, a bit bitter with a distinctly dry finish, but I missed many of the elements that burst forth when given a chance to sample solo.

Back in Mumbai I sat with it for some time, really giving it an opportunity to open up. It has a number of fairly unusual qualities – I’ve never had a whisky that is quite so ‘tart’ or with soya sauce – but unmistakably its there.

In short – it has character. And to be honest – much as I appreciate a whisky that has character – this goes into the category of “so glad I tried, but did not have to buy.” I actually don’t think I could handle a lot of it – a good example where a little goes a long way.

Like many Japanese whiskies, finding a 21 year old today may prove challenging – both in terms of accessibility and affordability. I last found this online for approx $700. Crazy, eh?

Here’s what the folks at Nikka have to say:

This pure malt whisky is characterized by a deep and flavorful richness and excellent balance unique to whisky matured for 21 years. You’re sure to enjoy the nose, which blends the richness of ripe fruit with the elegance of the aged cask, and the complex changes in character that appear as the finish approaches.

Other Nikka blends sampled include:

I couldn’t help but be amused at how well travelled this bottle has been… Born in Japan, purchased in Tokyo, traversed the globe primarily around Asia to then reach Winnipeg, Canada where it was first opened. Then a sample continued its journey to London before carrying on to Mumbai, India where it was re-tasted. Thus goes the world of whisky and its whisky fabric!

Thanks again Doug & George for this sample – I’m delighted you “don’t collect stamps!”

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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.

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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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