Whiskey award season continues, as Whisky Advocate recently named Nikka Whisky From The Barrel as its number #1 overall winner for the Top 20 Whiskies of 2018.
Japanese whiskey rose sharply in popularity following another top overall winner, the Yamazaki 12 Year Sherry Cask, selected by Jim Murray as his best overall whiskey in 2014. Murray has continued to share his admiration for Japanese whiskey, naming another Nikka product, Nikka Coffey Malt, as his favorite Japanese Whiskey in 2017.
Nikka Whisky Distilling Co. Ltd. is headquartered in Tokyo, but has two whiskey distilleries. One of the distilleries, located in Yoichi, Hokkaidō, is in the northernmost region of Japan. The other distillery, located in Aoba-ku, Sendai, Miyagi Prefecture, is in central Japan.
For those unfamiliar with Japanese whiskey, but seasoned in Scotch, the transition will be very smooth. Japanese whiskey could easily be mistaken for Scotch in a blind tasting. And for Nikka, at least, its own heritage is traced back directly to Scotland. Nikka’s founder traveled to Scotland in 1918 to learn the production process. While there, he studied at a Scottish university. When he returned to Japan, he brought not only his Scottish bride, who he met while in Glasgow, but also a wealth of knowledge about distillation.
Nikka From The Barrel has been produced for many years, but was first introduced in the United States in 2018. It is a blend of multiple batches, aged in a combination of ex-Bourbon barrels and Sherry casks. As for its proof, 102.8, it is an homage to the old British proof system. Contrary to what many may assume, it is not bottled at barrel proof. However, it is one of the highest proof Japanese whiskeys on the market.
Nikka From The Barrel (102.8 Proof)
Nose: A mixture of floral, seafood, and fruit that make you feel as if you’re standing in Pike Place Market in Seattle. This is full of green apple; salt; brine; pineapple; cured meat; apricot; peach; smoked trout dip; and with more time in the glass, becomes quite floral. 4/5
Palate: Rich, with nectarine, baking spice, and apricot leading the way. Much less brine than the nose and sweeter, with chewy caramel candies and some butterscotch. A bit of rust on the back palate, but otherwise, a fantastic palate. 4.5/5
Finish: Abundant fruit, with loads of pineapple, apricot, pear, peach, and apple, rounding out with some smoked meat. A very refreshing finish. 4/5
Overall: This is complex but pleasant, showing the kind of refinement that Japanese whiskey does so well. The increased proof brings so much to the table without any overpowering heat. This is a very good pour. 4/5
Value. We picked this up locally for $59.99. After the Whisky Advocate announcement, that price is sure to increase. But for now, we’re easily more than satisfied at that price. 4.5/5
Stephen is a regular writer at FlightClubICT.com