Nikka from the Barrel
A collective effervescence struck the Whisky Fabric when word first hit the US that Nikka from the Barrel was finally making its way to our shores. Prior to the Summer of 2018, you could only get Nikka from the Barrel overseas. You would buy the 500ml bottle and place it gingerly in your luggage. Then you would pour one-ounce drams slowly into a Glencairn. You would sip like you were going to run out. Because you were.
Then we heard the good news. The 750ml bottles were on their way and Nikka would begin to ship the golden elixir to the US. The squat rectangular bottle would gain some extra wait, look a little stupid if we’re honest, but meet the US regulations. The screw top would retain its silver top, and the blend would show up loud and clear at a store near us.
Instagram has become a veritable breeding ground of this coveted bottle. Here’s why – this blend has different malt and grain components from Nikka’s reserves. The blended whisky is then put into used oak casks for 3-6 months to ‘marry’ all of the unique flavors. However, most important for whisky aficionados is the full flavor and richness. This is no doubt helped by its bottling strength, at 51.4% this expression retains the complex flavors and excellent mouthfeel.
2018 brought us the sad news that many notable Japanese age statements will be discontinued. However, the balance and quality will not drop off the map. Nikka and Suntory will change of course, but the complexity and texture will continue to be notably Japanese. What is remarkable to watch is the excitement that people typically reserve for age statements for this Nikka Whisky from the Barrel.
All of that said, in the US at least, we are finally able to experience what we once could only pick up on international trips or at our lucky friend’s house. Now, and of course, they are flying off the shelves, we can pick it up for around $65 a bottle. Here’s to many delicious nights of fine sipping!
Appearance: Rich golden color with hints of a reddish-brown hue. The large droplets form along the hemline and then glide down the glass quite purposefully.
Nose: At first you are struck by a sweet plum almost jam note alongside some vanilla. Then you pick up caramel, burnt caramel sugars, cinnamon, fresh oak, fresh cut wildflower, and a slight grain nip.
Palate: You are first struck by the viscous almost jammy texture alongside a fresh ginger burn. Then the fruit – orchard stone fruit – plum, apricot, slightly effervescent, then a bit of candlewax, some vanilla, and hints of sultana.
Finish: Gently warming, baking vanilla and fresh caramel, a wisp of milk chocolate, subtle hints of smoke, roasted almond, long and steady, into some dry baking spices – cinnamon, hints of clove, nutmeg, cocoa. There is a salty quality in the aftertaste – between smoked bacon & sea salt dusting chocolate. The finish rolls between a blend of the best malt and grain Nikka has to offer.
Nikka from the Barrel is everything you want in a Japanese whisky at a perfect proof. The flavors are well-balanced with all of the best qualities – the orchard fruit, the vanilla, the plum jam, a burst of effervescent brightness, & a slight citrus note. The finish is long and develops well hitting the confectionary and umami driven flavors. With the increase in bottle size it lost a touch of its pourability- the first pour will inevitably bring on the table share. Since this will be readily available there really is very little point in not having this on your shelf. At $65 a bottle, this might be the best value Japanese whisky available for quite some time. Yes, you can still hunt the age statements. But while you wait pour yourself a dram of this Nikka from the Barrel and keep your tongue well pleased.