Nikka from the Barrel is the latest addition to my whisky cabinet and the second of my whisky reviews. This star from the east was the winner of the Best Japanese Blended Whisky category at The World Whisky Awards 2007. Like the fat kid you sat next to at school, this dram has been described as ‘big-boned and bursting with character’.
Nikka from the Barrel is a blend, but don’t let this cloud your judgement. With grain and malt from Miyagikyo and malt from the Yoichi Distillery, this 51.4% whisky hits a home run harder than a precocious Little-League champ. Nikka from the Barrel has been matured in first-fill bourbon casks; its stunning square shaped bottle draws me in for some nosing impressions.
The first nosing reveals bubble gum; the kind that bursts in your face and needs to be cut out of your hair. Soft oak and vanilla follow. Its golden hue calls to mind the time you totalled William Katt’s 1994 Ford Taurus in Calabasas, California. Spices, milk, caramel, sherry and rain-soaked wood enrich the palate in quick succession.
Tasting offers yet more surprises. It’s colourful – like a manga cartoon in your mouth. Orange peel, boiled rice and wallpaper paste. Japanese lanterns flickering at your Sensei’s graveside. It’s a well-balanced drink this one: a 10p mix; those beige chinos you used to wear; a Barclays PinSentry card reader you have to take everywhere with you in order to log into online banking.
A dash of water opens it up considerably, but weakens its impact – like a low budget horror movie remade in Hollywood with A-list stars. An aroma of charcoal follows: an Australian trucker roasting a hitchhiker’s head over an open fire; a whiff of mint; a MySQL database; a ’57 Fender Telecaster with an .88mm gauge plectrum tucked into the scratch plate; raspberries, apples, dark chocolate and the shootout sequence in the milk factory from that Dolph Lundgren movie where he is afraid of the colour white.
It’s not over till the Samurai says so. The aftermath of this most dramatic blend is as surprising as the initial tasting. The Nikka conjures cocoa, pine trees and pumpkin pie while closing sensations reveal a Michael Myers mask and a box fresh 1 exabyte hard drive from Western Digital with eSata and Firewire 800. Finally, whisky.
I can’t recommend Nikka from the Barrel enough. At the price, it’s a freshly sanded dojo floor; a kata in the rain at 6am while catching fish; the climactic hand drum sequence from Karate Kid Part II. Take your pick, but choose wisely.