The 20 year Vintage expressions are an annual release and they relate to a specific year. The one we are trying today is from whisky distilled in 1988, last year’s was from 1989 and this year’s is from 1990 (We’ll get to posting about those vintages eventually). According to Nonjatta the releases used to be a lot smaller, ~500 bottles. However, Nikka has upped the number of bottles available, 3500 for this release, probably in-part to the increase in popularity and demand. Both of which are good things!
The Vintage 1987 is in part what put Nikka on the map internationally when it won the best single malt whisky for the 2008 Malt Whisky Awards (I tried this expression a couple of years ago, while a fabulous dram I didn’t think it was “that” good). The 1987 sold out quickly, so when we caught wind that the 1988 was going to be released we made sure to reserve a bottle. The expectations were high for this bottle so it had a lot to live up to!
Yoichi Vintage 1988 20 y/o 55% ABV
Color: Light bronze orange
Nose: Peat, light smoke, meaty, winter in Lake Tahoe with fire place smoke in the air, sandal wood, coastal saltiness.
Palate: Smoke initially, drying, deep oak, dark fruits, slightly salty, lights up the tongue with some dark spices
Finish: Long, dark fruit sweetness and salt
Comments: This is some top notch stuff. A complex twisting but beautifully weaved whisky. There is a lot going on and you really have to sit with it for some time to take it all in. It is also very unique – there aren’t really any other whiskies that have a similar flavor profile. I wish we bought two bottles because this one is now empty.
I sampled this as part of a blind tasting. The other whiskies had been blends. When I got to this one it did not take much to know that someone was trying to pull a fast one. This whisky stands up and stands out. Rose gold and amber, the color itself was warming. The nose blew its cover revealing the single malt pedigree, and quite a distinctive one. Peat, iodine, and salt tried to assert their places in the presence of a distinctive fresh-from-the-BBQ charred meat note. And a ghostly trace of violet grappa appeared now and then. A powerful yet mysterious nose that really took me in. I might have been able to get more out of it but I needed to taste it, the lure was too strong. Dark smoke paved the way for brown sugar and salted earth. The smoke transformed into extinguishing embers. Then some aged oak and a twisted take on a black pepper candy cane worked their way into the deep, darkening mix. A tingling, a numbing, and in the course of a long finish I enjoyed a coating heat. The finer attributes of age and how it can complicate and improve a whisky really stand out in the Nikka Yoichi 1988. These were 20 years well spent.