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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Yoichi Single Malt NAS 45% circa 2016

Having quite enjoyed the Yoichi 10 year in an earlier sampling session, I will admit to being rather excited to explore more what this distillery has to offer!

I particularly recalled Dr Bill Lumsden (of Glenmorangie and Ardbeg fame) sharing that of all the Japanese whiskies, he found Yoichi the most interesting.

Yoichi NAS

Yoichi Single Malt NAS 45% (approx late 2015/2016)

  • Nose – A curl of peat, sweet citrus fruits, honey, toasty nuts, vanilla, hints of sweet herbs and whiff of salty sea spray
  • Palate – Bold yet still approachable, nice balance of sweet, spice and smoke… some leather, malty
  • Finish – First real ‘finish’ of the evening… however still relatively short with a nice puff of smoke closing with mint

Overall a good well balanced dram. Fruit, peat, spice, sweet and nice it hits many of the right notes.

However, can I admit to being a wee bit disappointed with the NAS expression? I was honestly hoping for more… It just didn’t seem to have those delicious autumn notes I associated with the earlier Yoichi whisky.

And this is all the more devastating when you realize that with Nikka’s 2015 announcement of a whisky “shake up,” the age statements from both Yoichi and Miyagikyo are no more… at least for the foreseeable future.

From once potentially being considered in 2007 as one of the “cheapest whisky” (how times have changed!) in Japan, the Yoichi NAS of today is a reflection that the single malt stock shortage at Nikka is indeed very real.

Here’s what the Nikka folks have to say about their whisky:

Yoichi single malt has pleasant peaty notes and smokiness originating from the traditional direct coal-fired distillation as well as a briny hint delivered by the sea breeze during the aging process.

Here’s what others have to say:

What else did we sample in our far east evening?

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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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Trip to Japan – Nikka ‘Yoichi’ 10 year 45%

Next up in our Whisky Ladies evening was a ‘quick trip to Japan!‘ (Pollywood)

Nikka 'Yoichi' 10 year (Whisky Lady)

Nikka ‘Yoichi’ 10 year (Whisky Lady)

Here’s what we found:

  • Nose – Quite masculine at first, though fruity especially a strong apple cinnamon, like a mid-autumn cider. As it opened, became as American as apple pie… naturally with caramel and vanilla ice cream!
  • Taste – Smooth, well-rounded, unmistakably an autumn dram, juniper, pine, apple, a drizzle of honey, a cognac-like quality
  • Finish – Just a hint of spice at the end but overall smooooooth beyond belief! As it aired, even more character emerged.

We concluded this was like autumn in Vancouver… The kind of crisp fall day where you could go for a brisk hike in a tall deep forest then come back and reward yourself with a steaming hot, fresh-from-the-oven fruit pie!

Here’s what the Nikka folks say:

This 10 year old bottling unmistakably carries the Yoichi pedigree, which propelled Japanese whisky to international recognition. Peat notes surround a core of ripe fruit aromas, while a rich texture and underlying power make this the most masculine of Japanese single malts.

By now, most would be familiar with Japan’s popularity on the global whisky scene. Nikka‘s Yoichi distillery in Hokkaido was founded by Masataka Taketsuru in 1934.

The folks over at Nikka describe their distillery as one which :

…produces rich, peaty and masculine malt. The whisky gets its distinct aroma and body from direct heating distillation, in which the pot stills are heated with finely powdered natural coal–the traditional method that is hardly ever used today, even in Scotland.

The adherence to Scottish whisky making traditions is characteristic of the vision set by Taketsuru-San. Credited as the founder of Japanese whisky, Taketsuru studied chemistry and apprenticed at Hazelburn distillery in Scotland before bringing his love of whisky and bonnie Scottish wife – Jessie Roberta “Rita” Cowan – home to Japan in 1920. He built Suntory’s Yamasaki distillery, nurturing its development for a decade before venturing on to found the Nikka brand.

As for our inaugural Whisky Ladies evening?

One remarked it was “A trip around the world and a relationship all in one night!”

Other whiskies sampled during our rollicking session included:

Nikka 'Yoichi' 10 year (Table For One)

Nikka ‘Yoichi’ 10 year (Table For One)

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The Whisky Ladies of Mumbai!

What do you get when you combine kick-ass brilliant women and interesting whiskies? An insanely good time!

Years ago, I was interviewed as a woman whisky drinker, with the implication that the fairer sex enjoying a good dram is something new. Let me be clear – it is not!

However at all the recent whisky ‘Master classes’ in Mumbai and Delhi, lead by Master Distillers hoping to capture the hearts and palates of the Indian market, just where were the other women whisky appreciators? Why was I a rarity rather than the norm?

Wake up gents! We do exist… we are a growing tribe globally… no less so in India… and you ignore us at your peril!

So, how did this particular ‘Whisky Ladies’ event come about?

It all started with an innocent query about whisky drinking habits… Which lead to a conversation about women whisky afficiandos… Which sparked an idea to bring together a few ladies for a fine evening!
Without any effort, it was easy to gather a group of amusing women with diverse interests and one shared passion – whisky. Our host for the evening opened her gorgeous home in South Bombay for a most convivial setting – perfect for a merry night!
Whisky Ladies 1st Set (Table For One)

Whisky Ladies 1st Set (Photo: Table For One)

As for our killer line up of whisky?? Oh baby!

  • Compass Box’s Asyla – Love Compass Box blends and this delightful light number is like a joyous summer romp – fresh and flowery. A decidedly feminine start to the evening and a favourite of a few.
  • Kilchoman Coull Point – A complete contrast from a newer Islay distillery with a little wild ocean spray… top pick of one discerning whisky aficionado!
  • Nikka Yoichi 10 year – Then a jaunt to Japan for some mid–autumn cider after a wander through pine-filled British Columbia forests… Mmm….
  • Caol Ila 12 year – Ahh…. where would we be without this good old faithful Islay? Many fans in the room welcomed back an old friend!
  • Ledaig 1997/2013 46% – From the independent bottler Gordon & MacPhail, we closed our evening with a little trip to the Isle of Mull. Calmer seas, peat smoke, complexity with an enthusiastic conclusion – “It’s really, really, reeaaaallly yum!” This one caught favour with more than one female!

I can’t wait for Pollywood‘s weekly vlog which will have a few seconds from our evening. And with the success of our first gathering, there is no doubt this will become a monthly affair!

In fact, such are our ambitions there was talk of hatching plots to get Whisky Live (or something similar) back to India…

So gentlemen be warned. We are loud, proud whisky sipping women and we aren’t waiting around for an invitation. We’ll be making them!

Nikka 'Yoichi' 10 year (Table For One)

Nikka ‘Yoichi’ 10 year with goodies (Photo: Table For One)

Quote of the night from our host: “Please guys, let’s now just enjoy!!” Considering 3 bottles were emptied… we did indeed comply.

Farewell my lovely Ledaig (Table For One)

Farewell my lovely Ledaig (Photo: Table For One)

For a few amusing takes by some other Whisky Ladies… check out:

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