A word of warning: I seriously loved the 1995 Single Cask version of this whisky. When I say seriously loved, I mean I smuggled a bottle home and didn’t tell anyone about it, then quietly stroked it when no one was looking. I kept it a year before thinking Sod it, finally opened it, and have recently been enjoying it again.
Imagine my delight when I saw that Nikka were releasing a new edition of their Coffey Grain whisky, though this time at a far more affordable price (and also not as strong, but hey).
A few whisky-geek facts. Coffey Stills – you might be thinking, what the hell are they? According to the bottle, they are a “traditional and rare patent still Nikka imported from Scotland in 1963”. Or you could just look it up on Wikipedia and then come back here. Suffice to say they’re not your usual whisky still.
The new Nikka Coffey Grain Whisky is made from corn, distilled through these continuous Coffey Stills, and is bottled at 45% ABV. This time it isn’t a limited release cask strength whisky like the others in this range have been. This is Nikka’s attempt to woo bourbon drinkers. Can it seduce them?
Colour: on the yellow side, varnished pine. On the nose: gentle, much more gentle than the 1995 version. Soft, creamy syrup, vanilla (just a touch) and a little wood. You know it’s got that grain sensation, even if it’s not as big a whack as it could be. Chamomile. Stewing tea. Really interesting, vegetative stuff for a grain whisky.
In the mouth: incredible delicate. Green tea with honey. Delicate sugars. Solvent note, but not too much (and not necessarily a bad thing). Lemongrass. Grapefruit. Custard cream biscuits. Big chardonnay notes, wrapped in something much sweeter. Stunning texture, but a little two-dimensional compared to the older, bigger, cask strength monsters. No I’m being harsh – scrub that, forget I’m comparing it to the other edition. Let’s look at it on its own merits. It’s an elegant grain whisky.
I can really see this working on a warm evening, with friends who might not be big fans of whisky, or those who are looking for something a little unusual. Will it seduce bourbon drinkers? I’d say yes, if not for the luscious mouth texture, which exceeds most of the bourbons I’ve drunk.
You can tell I’m torn on this one, purely because I’ve tried what this is like at cask strength and genuinely, whole-heartedly, think that this isn’t really near the taste sensation (or even value for money) of it’s older sibling. I spent £150 on that 1995 Single Cask and felt that was worth every penny. I spent £39 on this bottle, and that’s still worth every penny, but there clearly aren’t as many pennies, if you see what I mean (no, I don’t either).
But it is still good, and I’m glad I bought it.
And all that said, I think people should try this bottle for something more unusual in their collection. Hit the banner at the top and type in “Nikka grain” – you’ll find a cool and unusual 50cl bottle for a very reasonable price. Give it a go and then imagine how heady it could be at cask strength.