Sadly it would seem that Japanese age-stated whisky is becoming even more scarce than its Scottish brethren. We’ll be a little more lenient in this case, as Nikka From The Barrel is actually a blend, in spite of what your senses may lead you to believe.
I meant to get to this review a couple years back, actually, as a few bottles of this one have been dust-gathering in my basement ‘whisky warehouse’. Something always seemed to come first. Now, being couch-bound and only three days out of surgery, I figured it was maybe time to hit up a few of the outliers in the collection. Perhaps we’ll hit the Red, Black and White series too. We’ll see.
As to this one…
Well, like I said…no age statement. Japan is dealing simultaneously with serious overdemand and vastly understuffed warehouses. If this was Scotland I would suggest it had to do with poor foresight, but I don’t think anyone realistically could have foreseen the rise of Japanese malts to the world stage (or even blends, for that matter!). I’ve read a few whisky wordsmiths suggest they raised early cautions, but 5, 6, 7 years ago is not the sort of early caution that alleviates pressures on a spirit that relies on the advancement of years for development of flavour profile.
Does this mean we’re more forgiving of Japanese NAS whiskies than Scotland’s sleight of hand? Nah, not really. Japan relies less on historical governance and adherence to legislated restrictions than does Scotland, ergo less need to cowtow to the party line. Tell us it is young and delicious, share the age on the bottle and concede the cask make-up. Let’s face it…it’s not like the SWA will come a-knocking on those eastern shores. Unfortunately, the reality is that Japan has sort of positioned itself as the legitimate heir to the Scottish empire, inheriting (if unofficially) its standards, conventions and, in a way, exists almost like a Platonic ‘form’. Good luck shedding that skin now. Am I getting too deep here? perhaps. So let’s move on.
Long and short of it is that this 500 ml bottle of 51.4% blended whisky is a hell of a drink. Bold and rich, balanced and nuanced. Much to like here. And though I don’t know the current pricing, this one was about $55 Canadian when I grabbed it a couple years back. Not bad at all.
Nose: Definitely noses like a Japanese whisky. Chocolate, soft balanced spices and poached fruit. Some savoury mince notes. Pepper, raspberry and blackberry. Notes of spiced dough. Lovely nose. I would guess malt, not blend.
Palate: Arrives with spice and clean oak. Second sips are softer. Fruits and milk chocolate, like a Cadbury Fruit & Nut bar. Tea and tart fruit juice. Apple. Orange and cinnamon. Very rich and heavy in dried fruits. Which we love. Spicy and savoury. Big whisky, this.
Thoughts: This one benefitted from a fair bit of breathing time in the bottle. Not that it was rough off the cork, but the time spent mellowing was well-invested.
– Image and words: Curt