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.
Don’t start me on Nikka and their nonsense. Have loved their whisky for years, then we actually visited the Yoichi distillery last September full of high hopes.. this distillery has to be one of the most difficult distilleries to get to in the world! But we were sadly disappointed. No age statements available to buy, none of the lovely stuff on tasting actually available in the shop either. Pushed through the massive tasting room like sausages in a factory, along with the contents of multiple tour buses. Distillery tour only a walk-yourself and, notwithstanding all the great history, still rather disappointing. Left us wondering what’s in store for the future: will they ever catch up with demand and offer us age statements again? Signed: ripped-off.
Thanks for the comment and warning regarding the distillery tour. I haven’t been there myself and I’ve been wanting to but your experience does not sound appealing! I hope you had fun at other Japanese whisky distillery tours.
Jude, don’t get me wrong, I understand the disappointment, but it has been this way for years if you had searched up what it would be like. I visited back in 2016 I think it was, and even then the age statements were not available for a while. You could try them in the bar though for a decent price. Nikka (like other Japanese brands) have been a victim of their own success, and there is no way they can match the demand. They did have more special bottles before, but they would instantly sell out for people buying to sell etc. Therefore, even if they had age statements now they’d either be sold out all the time, or super expensive. The tour is as you say self guided for English speakers and so disappointing compared to others, but it is also free.
Hi Jeremy, thanks for the additional info on the tour. I remember Yamazaki distillery having a headset, back in 2014, that could play an English recording. There weren’t any of those in the tour?
I tasted the sherry cask some years back, and thought it was decent enough, but certainly not worth the money when thinking about whisky in general. Of course Japanese whisky prices aren’t normal… Part of that judgement was likely based on the Yoichi and Miyagikyo single casks I tasted at the same time – they were lovely drams.
I think the reason the blend is a distillery exclusive is just to give something “unique” to people to buy to make the trip a little more worth it. There’s not much else they can sell (special stuff will need to be super expensive or will be sold out the entire time anyway). I don’t think the price is 5000 yen though at the distillery – just the only places you can find it are the expensive/rip-off shops as the cheaper ones have sold out. It was common before to have people loading up on distillery exclusives and selling at much higher prices in the big cities for people who couldn’t get to the distillery, not sure if that is still the case.
Hi again, Jeremy, I thought the Miyagikyo Sherry was absolutely delicious back then too. I just became more sensitive to sulfur.
You may have a point about the prices of the distillery blend. Y5000 isn’t a bad price point but seeing a distillery release in a place not in the distillery just makes it less… attractive too.
Visited the distillery back in March 2019 and was not disappointed… Not much visitors around… I was able to get a Taketsuru flight (NAS, 17yo and 21yo) at the restaurant while having lunch… As to the current lineup, yes kinda bit disappointed, but many are still onboard the hype train…