By Kurt Maitland
Nikka is one of Japan’s premier whiskey distillers with a rich and varied range of whiskeys on sale in international markets. Unfortunately much of their range has not been available Stateside. That is why my opportunity to sample and review the Nikka 5 and 10 year single cask expressions earlier this year came only because I was in a well-stocked Hong Kong bar.
While those particular expressions were only available in Asian markets, Nikka has dramatically expanded their American offerings with the addition of four new expressions to the American market. I was able to procure all four, and I’m starting my perusal of the new Nikkas with the Coffey Grain Whisky.
The Coffey Grain (the Coffey is the name of the continuous stills patented by Aneas Coffey still so this release has nothing to do any misspelled flavoring) is a grain whiskey. Nikka has been operating two sets of Coffey stills since the 1960s. In Scotch terms, and Japanese whisky is derived from Scotch, grain whiskey is usually perceived as the cheap stuff used to fill out blends. However, high quality grain whiskey has been making a resurgence in recent years. Compass Box has a well-received vatted grain, Hedonism, and Teeling released a single grain whiskey over in Ireland.
So, some of the particulars of the unique flavor of the Nikka Coffey Grain comes from the aforementioned Coffey stills, while other particulars come from its unorthodox status as a Japanese single grain.
Nikka Coffey Grain is bottled at 45% abv.
Color – Tawny gold
Nose – Honey vanilla with a hint of toasted coconut
Taste – The mouthfeel is soft, a little dry. Great blend of vanilla, tropical fruits and coconut – the grain toughens up the taste in a good way but keeping it from being too sweet. With water, the coconut comes more to the fore and cuts a little of the bite from the grain
Finish – A little grit in the finish, long mellow lingering burn.
A striking, tasty change of pace from a great distiller, and quite different from what I’ve come to expect from the Japanese.
The Nikka Coffey Grain is priced around $70 dollars US and can be found in many of your better liquor stores and online.
Gold Award at the 2013 International Spirits Challenge