Whisky Advocate

Guest Review: Dave Broom Reviews Japan’s Nikka whiskies

August 23rd, 2010

Nikka is Japan’s second biggest whisky producer with a large range covering blends, single grain, as well as blended and single malts from its two distilleries, Miyagikyo and Yoichi. A little bird tells me that these will be available in the States later this year. Here’s a “Nikka” taster.

Coffey Malt, 12 year old, 55%, £99
Produced at Miyagikyo’s grain distillery from 100% malted barley, this is rich gold in hue, while the nose is big and luscious with plenty of ripe banana, crushed hazelnut, and an intriguing green malt note behind. As it opens, there’s the effect of a highcocoa chocolate bar melting in your hands, as well as coconut, vanilla fudge, and basil. With water (and it needs it) there’s honey on hot buttered toast. The palate is sumptuous; that banana’s now flambéed. Super ripe and fascinating. A grain for malt lovers. – Dave Broom

Advanced Malt Advocate magazine rating: 95

Nikka From The Barrel, 51.4%, £24.95 (50cl)
A high-strength blend that takes no prisoners. The color is full gold and the first thing that hits the nose is a complex mix of restrained smoke (sandalwood, cigar), fennel, and celery before semi-dried tropical fruits and orange peel take over. The palate also shows some of that mango character, but also crisp oak and a burst of sweet powdered spices on the finish. A maltlover’s

Advanced Malt Advocate magazine rating: 92

Miyagikyo, 15 year old, 45%, £76.95
This single malt bottling shows Miyagikyo’s emollient style at its best. This is all about super-soft orchard fruits; think apricot and sweet persimmon, though there’s also a touch of sweet sawdust and even a whiff of pine sap and milk chocolate. It demonstrates the classic Japanese trick of being both clear and precise in its aromas, as well as being heightened in intensity. The
palate is a little slow to start with, offering a mix of spruce and pine, then those soft fruits carry you onward. In some ways the gentle charms of Miyagikyo are overshadowed by the rambunctious nature of From The Barrel and Yoichi, but soft is a worthy element in Japanese — nay, all — whisky.

Advanced Malt Advocate magazine rating: 90

Yoichi 15 year old, 45%, £76.95
Nikka’s first distillery is located in the eponymous town on the western coast of Hokkaido. Here, power is the key. Deep and rich with a distinct oiliness — somewhere between linseed and cod liver — there’s also plenty of smoke in the mix as well, and a little hint of black olives in brine with ripe apples lurking behind. I hate making comparisons between Japanese and Scotch single malt but if I was forced to, Yoichi reminds me most of Springbank (edging into Longrow). Water dampens the personality too much for me; best have it full-on and uncompromising. Rather than the palate showing a slow procession of flavors along the tongue, this is a layered whisky; coal-like, oily, and richly fruited with a distinct saltiness on the sides, ably demonstrating that Japan has almost as much variety on offer as scotch.

Advanced Malt Advocate magazine rating: 95

10 Responses to “Guest Review: Dave Broom Reviews Japan’s Nikka whiskies”

  1. Chris says:

    Let’s hope so! I read that they were in negotiations with a US distributor earlier this year. They have such a great range of expressions out there (my personal favorite being the single cask collection), but this would be a great start if they released these here.

  2. Steffen Bräuner says:

    Yoichi is a great malt, a 10yo cask strength I had quite a few years back is still my favourite japanese

    I also think more people would drink japanese whiskies if the prices were sligthly lower, the quality of the malts being on par with scottish whisky. Dave Broom seems like a real lover of japanese whiskies, he surely rates them high. Nothing wrong with liking whisky, he rates them a bit higher than I would 🙂


    • mongo says:

      those *are* a lot of scores in the 90s. back when i was in college scoring 60% got you a first division, and only a handful of people got one each year.

  3. Bill H. says:

    “A little bird tells me that these will be available in the States later this year.”


    The whole core Yoichi range (10, 12, 15, 20) is amazing. So was the single cask I’ve tried. Exciting news.

    At a Yamazaki tasting recently we were told they hope to have Hakushu available here soon as well.


    • John Hansell says:

      Everytime I see my Suntory contacts I plead with them to bring in Hakushu.

      • Chris says:

        I second that! I had the fortune of going to Hakushu last week, a beautiful location, and was able to try the chore range as well as some of the different finishes.

      • Luke says:

        Anyone who hasn’t tasted The Hakushu 18 Year Old is missing out on one of the great world whisk(e)ys.

      • Bill H. says:

        I’d always thought that Hakushu, Yoichi, et al’s not being available in the States was due merely to some lack of desire to field them in this market or to the assumption that there just wasn’t a market here for them, but they said at the Suntory tasting (I shouldn’t have called it a Yamazaki tasting: it was occasioned by Hibiki, but Yamazakis–including the 1984!–were had, as was the Hakushu that went into the Hibiki blend) that it had to do with US regulations. I’m remembering it having to do with how or in what kinds of wood a whisky is aged. My friend remembers something about bottle size.

        I wonder if someone here can cast some light on this.

  4. B.J. Reed says:

    These sound wonderful.

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