Nikka Whisky From the Barrel
Review: Nikka Whisky From the Barrel (80/100)
a review By Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)
Posted on May 15, 2011
Nikka is the second largest distiller of whisky in Japan owning two distilleries at Yoichi and Miyagikyo. The Yoichi distillery is located on Hokkaido which is Japan’s Northernmost Island where the climate is apparently very similar to Scotland. The Miyagikyo distillery is located on Honshu island in central Japan. Information on this blend is a little hard for me to decipher from the bottle but the whisky apparently includes Malt whiskies from each of the Nikka distilleries as well as grain whisky from Miyagikyo. The label says the whisky is double matured, and I believe that the final maturation was in a first run bourbon barrel. I taste a sherry influence as well making me believe that at least some of the whiskies which comprise the blend have seen time in Sherry casks.
In the Bottle 2.5/5
Somehow, Nikka Whisky has come up with a bottle presentation which has received the lowest score I have ever given. (Right now, you’re looking at the picture going, “What the heck is Arctic talking about, that square little bottle looks kind of funky.”) However, if you look closely at the picture you will notice an incredibly small neck on the bottle which makes this whisky an absolute nightmare when trying to pour the first few drams without spilling. As a whisky lover I really do not want to spill anything; but I did, and so did my friend Dennis when I asked him to try to pour a little. When two grown men who are well used to pouring whisky are forced to waste some…..
Did no one in Marketing even attempt to pour a dram from a full bottle?
In the Glass 8.5/10
When I finally was able to get some of the whisky into my glass I had a good look at it. The Nikka Whisky is a nice mahogany/bronze colour, and when I tilt my glass it displays a light sheen on the inside which releases long slender trickling legs.
The nose is bitter-sweet with astringent oak tannin and honey-like caramel jumping out of the glass quickly. Deeper and richer sherry-like scents follow with dates and prunes being the more dominant aspects of the sherry scents. The oak builds in the breezes as the glass decants, and I begin to receive some nice baking spices. However, the astringent notes of the oaky tannin still lurk in those breezes muting my enjoyment. The caramel turns to treacle, and although I find the nose extremely complex and inviting, I also sense that my nostrils are giving me a mild warning that all is not necessarily well.
In the Mouth 49.5/60
There is quite a wallop of flavour associated with the Nikka Whisky as one would expect from a cask strength offering. Rich burnt caramel, woody tannins and rich baking spices all mingle together. I taste a whisper of Apricot Brandy winding through the flavour profile. Raisins, dates and prunes add to the complexity which should be making this whisky a treat for the mouth….
But…(isn’t that a dreadful word)…alongside the richness and complexity of the whisky lies an unmistakable accent of something which is slightly sour and pungent (perhaps this is a hint of sulphur). This sour and pungent accent throws everything askance and brings the party of flavour in my mouth to a crashing halt. I know now what my nose was trying to tell me. What a Pity!
In the Throat 11.5/15
The whisky finishes bitter in the mouth and somewhat harsh in the throat. I can forgive the harshness as at cask strength the whisky is meant to pack a punch. But the bitterness is offsetting, and my enjoyment has been quashed.
The Afterburn 8/10
The Nikka Whisky From the Barrel could have survived the poor bottle presentation and still posted a fine score based on the awesome complexity and the richness of the flavour I found. However, an offsetting accent to the flavour and a bitter finish has diminished the whisky, and I find myself returning only on seldom occasions to the bottle.
You may read some of my other Whisky Reviews (click the link) if you wish to have some comparative reviews.
As always you may interpret the scores I provide as follows.
0-25 A spirit with a rating this low would actually kill you.
26-49 Depending upon your fortitude you might actually survive this.
50 -59 You are safe to drink this…but you shouldn’t.
60-69 Substandard swill which you may offer to people you do not want to see again.
70-74 Now we have a fair mixing rum or whisky. Accept this but make sure it is mixed into a cocktail.
75-79 You may begin to serve this to friends, again probably still cocktail territory.
80-84 We begin to enjoy this spirit neat or on the rocks. (I will still primarily mix cocktails)
85-89 Excellent for sipping or for mixing!
90-94 Definitely a primary sipping spirit, in fact you may want to hoard this for yourself.
95-97.5 The Cream of the Crop
98+ I haven’t met this bottle yet…but I want to.
Very loosely we may put my scores into terms that you may be more familiar with on a Gold, Silver, and Bronze medal scale as follows:
70 – 79.5 Bronze Medal (Recommended only as a mixer)
80 – 89.5 Silver Medal (Recommended for sipping and or a high quality mixer)
90 – 95 Gold Medal (Highly recommended for sipping and for sublime cocktails.)
95.5+ Platinum Award (Highest Recommendation)