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Direct ImportHokkaido, JAPAN$99.99 Bottle
- ABV 43%
Whisky is big business in Japan with Scotch whisky being especially popular, yet with their own history of brewing and sake production, it's only logical that the Japanese are now making whisky too. What began as a conscious imitation of Scotch, now has a style all of its own, and since commercial production began in the early 20th century, the quality has been steadily improving.
Today, most of the malt whisky produced in Japan is for blending but Japanese distillers generally don't trade casks in the manner that Scottish distillers do. Consequently, it's up to each distillery to produce a diversity of styles that will form the base components of 'house blends' that offer unique and complex flavour profiles. Some Japanese blends will even include a percentage of Scotch whisky, rather than whisky from rival local distillers. This jealous reluctance to exchange is considered one of the major obstacles holding the industry back from the prominence it deserves: In a number of blind tastings recently organised by Whisky Magazine, which have included Japanese single malts in the lineup along with malts from distilleries considered to be among the best in Scotland, on more than one occasion, the results have had Japanese single malts scoring higher than their Scotch counterparts.
After a long absence from the Australian market, we've finally managed to secure some world class Japanese whiskies from the Nikka distillery, Japan’s second largest whisky producer after Suntory. Now owned by the brewer Asahi, the company was originally set up by Masataka Taketsuru, who built Yoichi distillery in 1934, having previously spent two years studying the art of distilling in Scotland. (He also developed the now famous 'Yamazaki' distillery in Kyoto for Suntory which he managed for ten years). Nikka's range of blended, pure malt and single malt whiskies will be exciting new discoveries for any Whisky enthusiast.'...if anyone can show me a better balanced whisky than this you know where to get hold of me. You open a bottle of this at your peril'. 95 points. - Jim Murray's Whisky Bible 2016.
Tasting note: A number of Nikka malt whiskies are now available...and tend to be quite peaty and traditionally Scottish in style. ‘Black’ is nutty and malty on the nose, with developing peat and a hint of ginger. In the mouth this is initially fresh and fruity – Spangles sweets, followed by subtle peat, toffee and spicy oak. The finish is lingering, sappy, peaty, and with pleasing fragrant notes. All in all, a beautifully crafted whisky. 43.0% Alc./Vol., - www.whisky-pages.com* Due to relatively small production runs tasting notes will vary depending on lot number bottling.
- 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
- ABV 45%
Jim Murray's Japanese Whisky of the Year 2018.Yet another first for Australia - Nikka decided to add their Coffey Malt to their core portfolio in 2014. It completes the Coffey range, originally launched in September 2012 with the Nikka Coffey Grain. Each offers insight into the whiskies that constitute the base of Nikka’s blends. This edition is produced from 100% malt, though technically it's not a single malt due to its distillation in Coffey stills (Nikka imported two from Scotland in 1963). Scheduled as a European exclusive, we're very fortunate to have received a tiny quantity into Australia. Tasting note: Brilliant deep gold colour. Semi-sweet aromas of creamy soda, creme caramel, vanilla bean and shortbread followed by flavours of butter menthol lozenge, cream biscuits and an ultra pure, high pitch vanilla bean, dried coconut finish that maintains excellent sweet/dry balance. Creamy soda and bounty bar aftertaste. A gorgeous, one of a kind, melt in your mouth malt that's a must try. 45% Alc./Vol. Other reviews... Now a hugely welcome part of the core range, this whisky—made in Coffey stills at the Miyagikyo distillery—uses 100% malted barley as its base. The nose is all tinned peach, tropical fruit juice, and baked banana, with a surprising green celery note, coconut, and sherbet. The palate is silky, with some chocolate, biscuity oak, and orange blossom honey. Water brings those green notes forward to add freshness to the peach cobbler sweetness. The grain revolution builds. 45% Alc./Vol.
89 points - www.maltadvocate.com, (Fall 2014) Reviewed by: Dave Broom
Kiichiro Iwai, the namesake for this Mars Whisky, was for many, the "quiet" pioneer of the Japanese whisky industry. It was Mr. Iwai who built the brand "Hombo Brewing" (Hombo Shuzo) as well as providing the instructions for whisky production there. He was Masataka Taketsuru’s immediate superior at the turn of the century and was responsible for sending Taketsuru (of Nikka fame) to Scotland in 1919 to learn how whisky was produced. The Shinshu distillery (aka "Mars"), founded in 1985 and in operation from 1985-1992 and then 2011 to present is actually Hombo Shuzo's third domestic distillery. The previous have been the Yamanashi Distillery (1960-1969) and the Mars Kagoshima Distillery (1978-1984). This release is inspired by the great whiskies of America, being produced using a majority of corn balanced with light malt and aged in ex bourbon barrels. Ideal for daily sipping, in a mint julep or an old fashioned. Tasting note: Deep copper penny colour. Hints of spiced pear, then sweeter, richer Bourbonesque aromas of caramel, vanilla and clove. The Bourbon character comes through on the palate too - quite delicate on entry, building with grilled corn and orange zest rounded off with a lovely burst of baking spices and minty freshness which suggest some rye input here - or some very active Bourbon casks - or both. Overall lighter than most Kentucky styles, but a very convincing homage nonetheless. 40% Alc./Vol.
- ABV 40%