Veering off of the single malt course we are trying some of Nikka’s blends today. Blends tend to get relegated to the status of a second class whisky citizen – which can be unfortunate. If there is anything that we can communicate in this post, it is to not let the stereotypes surrounding blends hold you back from trying them. You might be missing out on some really good whisky.
Kingsland Nikka Whisky Premier 43%ABV
To be honest, the packaging on this little 50cl sampler screamed this is going to be some serious swill. There was an odd dichotomy of ingenuity and ridiculousness when it came to the “bottle stopper”. It was meant to look like a nice crystal bottle stopper, but it was in-fact a regular twist top with a triangular plastic piece fastened to the top with a sticker. After we stopped laughing we poured it out to give it a try.
Color: Light copper
Nose: Wow! A huge amount of alcohol fumes straight into my nose. After figuring out that I had to give this whisky a lot of space when nosing I found some apples, sweet grain, oak and what can only be described as a sharp impression
Palate: Continuing the trend of being really sharp on the entry and then it settles down into some sweet grain, honey and malt.
Finish: Short – poof! Gone!
Comments: Surprising kick on both the nose and palate up front – not necessarily in a good way. After that it is pretty boring but at least it was not the swill that I was expecting.
Even if the adornment on the cap was a little corny, the glass bottle had a pleasing heft to it. Over-the-counter caramel in color. I did not expect such a hot nose. And it was a hot nose. And the nose stayed hot. It almost brought a tear to my eye. No, seriously. Perhaps there was a little apple-sugar and malt back in there somewhere. A slightly sugary beginning lead to quick dashes of peat and smoke before settling on some darker sugar and dough notes.
Taketsuru 17 43% ABV
If you take a close look at this little 50cl bottle, only the character for tsuru (鶴) is on there. We humored ourselves with the thoughts that the bottle was too small for a label with the full name so they left the Take (竹) out.
Color: Dark amber
Nose: Initially honey, pears, a little floral. Then it shifts into more earthy tones with sandal wood and incense
Palate: Smooth, malty, layers of sweetness and sandal wood
Finish: Short and sweet
Comments: Not a light blend as the nose initially alluded to, reminds me of a ratcheted down Nikka From the Barrel Blend (see below).
I thought the label was pretty cool. Not a lot of information but it sure did look stylish. 20 carat gold with a tinge of copper. The nose was slightly sweet with a touch of celery, heat, and not entirely unlike a strawberry. I took a sip and found it quite satisfying. Lush water opened with a balanced, light peaty earth and hint-o-smoke. A slow-burning oak took root in the distance alongside a pleasantly somber sweetness. The blending process did not eradicate too much character in this relatively short and sweet sipper. I would like to drink this on an airplane.
Nikka From the Barrel 51.4% ABV
We did a short review of this before, but felt like we should revisit it and go into a little more depth.
Color: Light copper and orange
Nose: Peat, feisty alcohol presence, sweet dark fruit, incense, sandal wood, apple cider and orange
Palate: Earthy, peat, tansu furniture, good viscosity, a prickly spice on the tongue
Finish: Long. Incense and woody
Comments: This is probably one of the best blends that I have ever had. It has a darker, bolder and punchier flavor profile than we would expect from a blend. This is a single malt drinker’s blend – if that makes any sense. Great stuff!
Yes, I love this stuff. But this time I didn’t know I was drinking it (a little bit of blind-tasting) which makes my biased praise slightly more legitimate. The color was an orangy-light-rose gold. The nose featured peat, heat, dusty lemon, more heat, and perhaps a trace of fig ( but that last one could have been a synaptic snafu). It hit the palate with mild peat, dense simple syrup, and dark orange-resin. It was hot, but not overpowering. Some mushroom earthyness and char crawled onto the scene and settled in for a solid lingering. Pleasing mouthfeel. I thought I was drinking a single malt. Loads of character that are pleasantly at odds, but never smothering each other… and you can really taste the Yoichi lineage. I would like the keep a bottle of this on hand at all times. And don’t get me started about the cool bottle…