Nikka, the OGs of the Japanese distilling landscape, have long been known for their stubborn use of old-fashioned practices when it comes to making their delicious drams. We briefly touched on it here, when we took a quick look at their Coffey Malt whisky. Last week, the company officially launched their Coffey Grain expression in Australia.
While some venues have stocked it for some time, the official introduction into the Australian market is significant for a number of reasons, the main one being that we now have a consistently delicious and unique product from a Japanese distillery that won’t have you take out a mortgage on the house to secure a bottle, and will, at this stage, be available at select premium venues and stores.
Nikka was started in 1934 in Hokkaido, by the father of Japanese whisky, Masataka Taketsuru, who opened two different locations: one in Yoichi, which is known for its snow, and another in Miyagikyo, for its similar terrain and climate to Scotland. Stubbornly traditional, Taketsuru refused to modernise his distilleries when the technology changed, something the current operators are also keen to maintain, and given the delicious product they manage to create en masse, it’s not a bad formula.
Known for his adoption of Coffey stills, a specific type of column still that creates a unique product by passing the spirit product through a series of cubic chambers, the old-fashioned style of set-up is key to producing the distinct flavour of Nikka whisky.
“We don’t have a vertical ladder of expression with the bottles. We are a horizontal range”, says Nikka’s International Business Development Representative, Naoki Tomoyoshi.
“It goes from one end to the other end. The ability to create these wide range of flavours that is what is special about Nikka.”
Taking its name from Irishman Aenaes Coffey, the old-school still design leaves room for inconsistencies, but ones which also add character. It’s up to the blender to ensure that the final product is consistent an balanced. While they’ve used this method to product gin, vodka and their already celebrated Coffey Malt whisky, the Coffey Grain expression is likely unlike anything else even seasoned whisky connoisseurs have tasted.
With the sweet spice of bourbon, minus the heavy vanilla characteristics endemic to nedw oak, the Coffey Grain is delicious either on its own or mied. There’s fruit at the front of the nose and palate, which quickly and smoothly morphs into a delicate spice and tongue-coating sweetness, with a long finish. The 45% ABV makes it . Despite its Japanese heritage, you could be forgiven for thinking of this as the bourbon you have when you’re not having a bourbon.
With a RRP of A$129, expect this whisky to make a splash, and give it a go next time you get the chance.