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Nikka Coffey Grain Japanese Whisky (700ml)
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- ABV 45%
"...the gold standard of grain." - David Broom, Whisky Magazine.
Grain whiskies are almost entirely reserved for the blended whisky market, where the grain component can be thought of as the 'neutral canvas' background. The more robust and flavourful Single Malts represent the colours in the blender's palate. Grain whiskies aren't necessarily bland, but they do tend towards lighter, leaner styles. This is because the raw materials and the equipment used to make grain whisky are different than those found in the production of single malt. In grains, usually unmalted wheat or maize (corn) feature, together with a small amount of 'green' malt (barley which has germinated but not been kilned). Usually about 16% malt is added in order to convert the starches in the other cereals into sugar, so it can be turned into alcohol by the yeast.
The distillation process further sets grain whiskies apart: Rather than being pot distilled, they’re produced via column stills. Also known as 'Continuous' or 'Coffey Stills', this revolutionary invention from a French born, Irish raised Dublin Excise Officer, Aeneas Coffey, has forever changed the way most spirits are made. Significantly more efficient than the Pot still, column stills can produce a consistently light bodied and clean spirit to a pre-determined strength.
While the category is rarely marketed, there are several outstanding grain whiskies that are worth seeking out. Nikka's is one, and all the more unusual for being Japanese. Nikka have released a number of single cask Coffey distilled grain whiskies over the last few years. Now comes this larger scale offering, produced mainly from corn using their continuous Scottish-made Coffey stills at Miyagikyo. By all reports this is up there with the very best. Nothing but positive reviews on all fronts.
Tasting note: Brilliant gold. Superb scents of vanilla cream combined with sweet fruit - poached pear? Dried banana? Second pass finds tea biscuits, shortbread. Remains creamy throughout. Silky, almost oily delivery offers semi-sweet Irish pot still-like flavours: vanilla wafer, meusli, then added pepper to finish. Concludes sufficiently fresh, caramelly / vanilla heavy with short bread and lingering sugars in the aftertaste. Irish whiskey meets Venezuaelan rum. Delicious. 45% Alc./Vol.Other reviews… n24 Molten muscovado sugar; t24.5 Soft oils carry the thinned golden syrup aloft. Almost a semi-liqueur, but with that indefineable whiskyness which sets it apart...; f22.5 The slight bitterness of the cask jolts the serenity of the oily sugars; b23.5 whisky, from any part of the globe, does not come more soft or silky than this. 45% ABV... - 94.5 points (Jim Murray Whisky Bible 2015)
Sweet, with subtle, crisp, nutty oak, then comes fudge, ripe banana, and peach. The overall effect is like eating vanilla ice cream with toffee fudge and hazelnut sprinkles. The structure is thick and physical, the palate sweet and quite fat, with light hints of raspberry, fruit salad. A jag of acidity freshens the delivery on the finish. With water there’s more toffee, and it becomes slightly more yielding, with less oak. For me the gold standard of grain. 92 points - www.maltadvocate.com (Fall 2015) Reviewed by: Dave Broom