For my first review of a Japanese whisky I decided not on the first one I tasted, but rather the first one I bought for myself – the Nikka Whisky from the Barrel. Coincidently this is also my first review of a blended whisky. Simply put, a blended whisky is a mixture of both malt and grain whisky.
Style: Blended Whisky
In 1918 Masataka Taketsuru travelled to Scotland, originally to study chemistry in preparation to carry on the family’s’ trade of making sake. However, Scotch whisky captured the young man’s imagination so he decided to dedicate his life to whisky and became the first Japanese ever to study the art of whisky making. He apprenticed at distilleries, learning first-hand from the craftsmen and receiving training as a blender. He would eventually become known as a master blender.
Masataka’s vision of whisky was formed by his experience in Scotland, and he knew that the right environment was essential. It became apparent that in order to produce whisky as he felt it had to be, he would have to become independent. So in 1934 Masataka established Nikka Whisky and built its first distillery in Yoichi, Hokkaido. Even though it was inconveniently located, he had always considered it to be the most ideal site in Japan for whisky-making. It was similar in many ways to the Scottish town where he had studied.
The Nikka Whisky from the Barrel is made from matured malt whisky and grain whisky that are then blended together and then re-casked to create a rich harmony of distinctly different whiskies. It is bottled directly from the re-casked barrels of whisky and features almost the same alcohol percentage, a gorgeous 51.4% ABV.
Colour: Tawny to mahogany with many slow medium to thick legs.
Nose: Starts off with dried apricots, citrus fruits (mostly oranges and orange peel), and leading to a charming florallyness and sweetness (sweet pecan nut slice). Furthermore there is also Christmas cake mix, sultanas and boiled sweets on the nose with a porty and almost brandied date loaf character. There is also a dabble of oaky spice to tease you.
Palate: Medium to full-bodied with good balance. Despite the high ABV it is very easy drinking and has a smooth palate that delivers a divine spicy burn at the back of your mouth. The spiciness is of the warm winter and Christmas spice variety with some wood spice also thrown in. There is also a sweetness on the palate, caramel toffee, as well as hints of fruit (a mix of citrus and apricots).
Finish: Fairly long with sweet fruitiness, toffee and a long spicy (winter and oak spice) tingle on front of tongue. The finish also has a very warm heart.
Overall: A delightful and powerful whisky from Nikka and Japan. The very pleasant nose draws you in, while the balance of spice and sweetness of the palate keeps you taking sip after sip (as it did me). Lastly the price point on this makes it one of the greatest value for money whiskies in the world (in my opinion – and more so if you are a fan of cask strength whisky).
My Score: 86