A few nights back, sitting ’round sharing drams with a bunch of mates, when lo and behold, the tallest and scrawniest of the lot (a fellow we lovingly refer to as the ‘Ginger Buddha’) pops the cork on this l’il gem. He’d been down to see our mate, Andrew Ferguson, at Kensington Wine Market and been gently nudged in the direction of this malt from the Miyagikyo distillery (under the Nikka brand). I’m not certain if he did the whole try-before-you-buy thing, or simply picked it up on faith, but either way, those of us in attendance were all amply rewarded for braving the snow that evening.
Lately, more and more, I’ve felt the pull towards the far climes of Asian whiskies. Amrut, Kavalan, Karuizawa, Yamazaki…the exotic allure is well nigh irresistable. These malts aren’t simply recreations of that glorious Scottish distillate we all love, but more like a beautiful and resonant variation on a theme. Atop all of the inherently great characteristics of single malt whisky, levy a heap of exotic spices and off-the-beaten-path fruit notes and you’ll be coming somewhat close to what many of these Asian whiskies generally offer.
This 15 year old Miyagikyo is no different. It followed hard on the heels of a rather unpleasant blended whisky that night, so it was relatively easy for this one to sparkle in comparison, but subsequent tastings have held up just as well. Truly a wonderful surprise here from the North of Japan. I look forward to trying more aged variants as soon as opportunity presents.
Apparently Miyagikyo produces whisky primarily for Nikka’s range of blends, with only a small fraction of their 2 million litre capacity being siphoned off as single malt. The distillery, near Sendai, was initially founded with a thought to taking pressure off Nikka’s other distillery, Yoichi. This allows Yoichi to concentrate on single malts, while Miyagikyo pumps out (mostly) blend fodder. If this malt is any indication of what flows from the stills at Sendai, then Nikka can count itself lucky to have two aces in its hand.
Nose: Initial off-the-cork nose…wow! Just wow. A lot of great fruit. Mango…and a few other tropicals. Maybe a bit of raisin bringing some dark depth. A touch of smoke swirling with the spices. Rich, rich sherry notes. Creamy chocolate and almond. Paint notes hinting at some age (older casks herein, or just the result of a more temperate clime for accelerated maturation?) Great, GREAT nose.
Palate: Dried tropical fruits. Pineapple and mango. Dark cherry and wet wood. Some apple…maybe even over ripe apple. A touch of smoke again. Juicy sherry leads to a little bit of a tannic side.
Thoughts: The palate is a slight disappointment compared to the beauty of the nose. That 90.5 could maybe be a touch more…maybe a touch less. Probably more. After several glasses of this, I’d still like to revisit.
– Reviewed by: Curt
– Photo: Curt