Recently, I read the news that Nikka was releasing a couple more limited-edition whiskies. It steered my mind toward the few bottles of Nikka I have left, which made me realize that Nikka is no longer a brand many of us recognize. We only regularly get one NAS release for the single malts. Their founder’s namesake whiskies, the Taketsuru lineup we know, has been delisted and will be relaunched with a NAS. The only release left, which we are familiar with, is the Hi Nikka and From the Barrel.
When I got into whisky back in 2012, Nikka was full of age statements and variety. The Yoichi, Miyagikyo and Taketsuru with age statements were a joy to choose from; they even had those colored pure malt releases. Because Japanese whisky was a super-hot topic in the mid-2010s, Nikka and Suntory were often compared. When asked which of the two main companies I preferred, I always answered quickly with “Nikka.”
Then, a certain Japanese whisky, was given an award, and it all turned to shit—for those early to the party, at least. I can’t recall which of the brands were discontinued first, but like the Nikka single malts with age statements, they slowly went away. Even the Coffey grain and malt whiskey have been discontinued temporarily.
I’ve been in the mood to get rid of the old and/or almost empty bottles in my collection, and I have just emptied a couple of my Yamazaki bottles. I might as well work on finishing these two Miyagikyos while working on a Malt review. I remember some Malt readers going ballistic in the comments on an old Japanese whisky review. Relax, Japanese whisky-haters, or haters of those who can drink Japanese whisky; these are less common releases.
First up, is the Nikka Miyagikyo Sherry Cask. This was said to be aged in Spanish sherry casks. Do they mean this was aged in casks made from European oak? Regardless, this was released in 2015 along with a Yoichi Heavily Peated. Only 3000 bottles of each were released. I don’t know the age statement, nor have I read of any guesses online. This was bottled at 48% ABV. On a related note, I wonder if they released this as an answer to Yamazaki’s Sherry releases?
Second up, is this Miyagikyo Distillery Limited Blend. It’s bottled at 40% ABV and is in a 50cl bottle. I don’t know how much this initially cost when this was released, but I still see it in Tokyo for around ¥5,000.
Nikka Miyagikyo Sherry Cask – review
On the nose: Sharp scents of sweet raisins, sultanas and plums clouded by sulfur and soapy scents. Bitter dark chocolate and coffee come afterwards.
In the mouth: Sweet and sulfurous at the beginning, but less sulfur. Like on the nose there’s a lot of raisins, sultanas, dates, apples, apricots and figs. Hints of coffee, dark chocolate and soap at the end.
This hasn’t changed much, despite being open for years; only my senses have changed. I’ve become more sensitive to sulfur given off by ex-wine casks, which is why the scents of soap and sulfur make this unpleasant on the nose. It makes up for it with less of the undesirable flavor notes in the mouth, but in the end, this is just a typical sherry bomb. I do think it was Nikka’s answer to Yamazaki’s sherry cask releases, after all.
I know getting a lot of sherry influence is the point of releasing whisky aged only in ex-sherry casks, but I think this spent too much time being sherried, because I get none of the Miyagikyo DNA.
Nikka Miyagikyo Distillery Limited Blend – review
Color: pale ale.
On the nose: Mellow scents of apples, honey, banana and hints of melons. Sharp ethanol blurs every other scent for a bit. Some kiwi, ciku fruits, hints of oak, cloves
In the mouth: Mellow and fruity up front. Apples, honey, ginger syrup, hints of pepper and melon. More honey and demerara syrup come out a bit later, and more hints of pepper and thyme show up at the end.
I don’t know why Nikka made this a limited blend. Are they just taking advantage of customers filled with FOMO now? It’s not that I mind the 500ml bottle; I’m used to it due to Nikka From the Barrel. But why bottle this at 40%? What’s special about this? This is just good enough to be a regular NAS Miyagikyo. I find the regular Miyagikyo better than this blend. It isn’t even worth ¥5000. Because of the price, I’ll deduct one extra point.