By Kurt Maitland
Whenever traveling I try expand my knowledge by seeking out flavors I have not had and cannot get when I am at home in New York. What’s the point of drinking Maker’s (as pleasant as it is) when I can try some whiskey of a more…local variety. While in Hong Kong I had the pleasure of a few drinks in a great bar called Butler. While the bar itself was located in Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong, it came well-stocked with Japanese Whisky.
Nikka Whisky Distilling Co is one of the oldest whiskey distillers in Japan, having been founded in 1934 by Masataka Taketsuru after helping to establish Kotobukiya (now Suntory). Stateside we tend to get the higher end of their offerings such as the Nikka Taketsuru 12 Year Old (a recent birthday present from a friend with good taste, in fact). Nikka’s younger offerings are not generally available outside of Asia. But I wasn’t Stateside was I? Let’s get to the whiskey.
Nikka 5 Year Single Cask:
Nose – Light fruit
Color – Dark Ginger Ale
Taste (Neat) – Smoky, with a strong flavor of oak and malt with a forward tingle than lingers for a good while
Taste (with Water) – Rounds out the smokiness and emboldens the earlier flavor of fruit which now fills your mouth, sweetens the flavor and the alters the aftertaste.
Nikka 10 Year Single Cask
The 10 Year amplifies the elements found in the 5 Year.
Taste (Neat) – It is fruiter on the tongue, with hints of chocolate and cherry
Taste (with Water) – Less nose than the 5 Yr, a pleasant burn but slightly drier in taste as well.
Both were pleasant but don’t match up to their older, more mature brethren that are available here. They are fine for a change of pace but aren’t the best that Japanese whiskey can offer. If you do come across them in your travels and you have the choice, reach for the 10 Year Old or even better, the Nikka Taketsuru 12 Year Old, there you will find why Japanese whiskey, at its best can match up nicely with its European brethren.
The Nikka 5 and 10 Year Old single cask whiskeys (not to be confused with the 10 Year Old Single Malt) are unavailable outside of a tight Asian circle, so pricing information for Europe and North America is unavailable.