Stefanie Holt is the UK ambassador for Nikka and travels around the UK rhapsodising about the golden nectar. Whether it be training bartenders, entertaining consumers or pouring drams to the thirsty masses at shows and events. We took our opportunity to ask Stef about the range and specifically Nikka From The Barrel, which is fast becoming an icon for the Japanese category.
What’s the story behind Nikka, how did it all begin?
Masataka Taketsuru is widely regarded as the father of Japanese whisky. Despite his family owning a sake brewery as a young man it was Scotch whisky that captured his imagination and he decided to dedicate his life to it. In 1918, Taketsuru travelled to Scotland where he learned the secrets of whisky-making and met his wife Rita who would be the source of his inspiration. In 1920, Taketsuru returned to Japan with his new wife. He joined Kotobukiya, a spirits company, to produce the first authentic Japanese whisky. In 1934, he became independent. He established Nikka Whisky and built its first distillery called Yoichi on the northern island of Hokkaido. Taketsuru’s growing success allowed him to establish a second distillery, Miyagikyo, in 1969 on the main island of Honshu. These two distilleries produce a wide variety of styles of whisky. The Nikka Distilling Company produce single malts, grains and blends to suit any palate or occasion.
In the decades since, Nikka Whisky has become renowned for its passion for craftsmanship, quality and flavour. A Yoichi single malt was the first Japanese whisky to win Best Whisky in the World in 2001.
How would you describe Nikka from the Barrel?
The first thing you notice about Nikka from the Barrel is the bottle shape which has become iconic in the whisky world. It’s been unchanged since it launched in 1985 & still looks modern & distinctive.
Flavour-wise, it tastes really complex – rich, fruity with a hint of smokiness, all in perfect balance. On the nose, you discover aromas of spiced orange zest, honey and coconut. On the palate, these aromas combine with herbaceous notes fading into the warm spice characters of cinnamon and clove. Nikka from the Barrel has a long lasting finish due to its complexity and the fact that it’s bottled at 51.4%ABV but is deceptively smooth.
The richness combined with the balance of flavours mean Nikka from the Barrel is the obvious choice for any back bar. It will lift any cocktail calling for a whisky base. In Japan, the most common styles of drinks with whisky are long, refreshing highballs, but this also shines in shorter more intense drinks, or when sipped without mixing.
How and where is Nikka from the Barrel produced?
The Nikka Whisky Co produces a wide range of blended whiskies, created from combining the malt whiskies made at Yoichi and Miyagikyo distilleries and grain whisky made in a traditional Coffey Still at Miyagikyo. The range of blends offers diverse expressions created by the Nikka blending team. By selecting whiskies made from different types of malts, cask types and maturation lengths, the blenders can draw from a vast palette for their creations.
To make Nikka from the Barrel, a selection of aged single malts from the Yoichi and Miyagikyo distilleries and the unique Coffey Grain whisky are combined. Then this blend undergoes a marrying period in oak barrels for 3-6 months. This marriage is then bottled directly from the cask at 51.4%. It possesses a distinctive personality characterised by its depth of taste and richly expanding aroma. The average age for the whiskies in the blend is 10 years old, and this has been awarded Best Japanese Blended Whisky on numerous occasions.
Tell us more about each of the other products we stock of yours and what’s the best way to enjoy them?
Nikka Coffey Grain is a single-grain whisky, made mainly from corn, distilled in a Coffey still and aged for an average of 12 years in American Oak casks. Created at the Miyagikyo Distillery, Nikka Coffey Grain is a key component of Nikka’s blended whiskies including Nikka from the Barrel. A tropical and refreshing-flavoured whisky the citrus and fruit characters combine really well with toffee, coconut and vanilla characters gained through the ageing process. Nikka Coffey Grain can be enjoyed neat, on the rocks, in a variety of cocktails calling for grain whiskeys or in a highball serve. It also is a good recommendation for American Whiskey or Aged Rum drinkers due to the flavour profile.
Nikka Coffey Malt is a grain whisky made from malted barley. This is unusual as grain whiskies are usually made from combinations of grains or cheaper varieties. The other unusual point about this whisky is the distillation. Coffey Stills are rarely used as more efficient stills prevail in modern times. This method produces a medium-bodied spirit with a silky mouthfeel. The spirit is then aged for an average of 12 years in American Oak casks. Nikka Coffey Malt was released in 2014 to celebrate the 80th anniversary of the Nikka Distilling Company and was awarded the title of “Most Innovative Spirit” launched that year. A complex and richly flavoured whisky with hints of mocha, chai tea and with dried fruits with savoury barley notes. Ideal neat or on the rocks Nikka Coffey Malt can also be enjoyed in more complex drinks such as an Old Fashioned or Rob Roy.
The Nikka Pure Malt Collection is a combination of malt whiskies produced at the Yoichi and Miyagikyo distilleries. Nikka Pure Malt Black is a testament to one of the earliest Japanese whiskies. It consists primarily of peated-malt whiskies produced at the Yoichi distillery, with a small proportion of unpeated-malt whiskies from Miyagikyo. These whiskies are aged for an average of 10 years in mostly American Oak casks and bottled at 43%. Nikka Pure MaIt Black has a rich, mellow smokiness with elements of dark chocolate, liquorice, plum and sweet spices.
You can find more information about Nikka here. If you want to stock Nikka Whiskies, click here to place an order online now, or here to request an account with us; and don’t forget we’re here to support you with everything you need to ensure that your spirits range is a success, from free menu design and print services to barware.