By Jake Emen
Nikka Whisky owns and operates two distinct distilleries in Japan. The oldest is the Yoichi distillery, built in 1934, located near the city of Sapporo on the island of Hokkaido.
Nikka’s founder, Masataka Taketsuru, had studied at the University of Glasgow and came back to Japan with the ideals of creating authentic and distinguished scotch-style whiskey. He chose Yoichi’s location not only for its aesthetic similarities to Scotland but also for its specific conditions, with clean air and good humidity levels, along with its proximity to the sea, one kilometer away.
Yoichi’s, and Nikka’s, Scottish roots go even deeper than that. The Yoichi distillery utilizes an underground water source filtered through peat, and heats their pot stills with naked flame produced by powdered natural coal, a traditional method for Scotch which has since been mostly abandoned in Scotland.
Nikka Yoichi 15 Year Old is a single malt whiskey originating from the Yoichi distillery. In the glass, it offers deep copper coloring, and a grainy, malty aroma. Continue exploring and you’ll notice oak, peat, and an oily, nutty background.
On the first sip, Nikka Yoichi 15 Year Old is almost so smooth that its taste can get past you entirely. Sip again, or wait a moment, and you’ll notice a strong, lingering spiciness emerge, leading you to a dry, spicy finish.
Yoichi 15 Years is smooth, chewy and malty, offering deep, rich flavors, and an inherent saltiness and smokiness which derives from its location and its Scottish roots and methodologies. In many ways, Yoichi does indeed scream Scotch, and particularly a coastal scotch, however, it’s also clearly different, its own separate class of single malt, distinct in characteristics such as aroma and body.
On ice, the rich, malty sweetness is only intensified. You’ll notice a quick, easy and malty finish, with a light sea-breeze saltiness. The oily, smoky characteristics so prominently present before disappear.
Nikka Yoichi 15 Year Old Single Malt, 45% abv, can be found online ranging from about $120 to $135 for a 750ml bottle. As a high quality, easy-drinking single malt, offering some of what you love and some of its own unique traits, it certainly is worth exploring. However, for half the price, Nikka’s Taketsuru Pure Malt 12 Year Old may be even better.
Nikka Yoichi 15 year old won a gold medal at the 2009 and 2010 International Spirits Challenge.