Now that Japanese whisky is ‘the best whisky in the world’, all of a sudden even entry-level malts like the Yamazaki 12 are considered premium expressions. Good quality blends are equally hard to find at decent prices, but Nikka from the Barrel is a welcome exception to this rule. I always found the name a bit strange, but it’s probably just their way of saying it’s high strength, and I guess it’s not all that different to, say, Tamdhu’s ‘batch strength’ description. Incidentally, be careful with Japanese whiskies: a lot of them contain high proportions of Scotch whisky which is then bottled in Japan. This one is no exception – it may well contain whisky from Nikka’s Yoichi and Miyagikyo distilleries, but now that Japan has passed regulations on what can be called ‘Japanese whisky’, they’ve announced that this one doesn’t fit the bill. The rather cryptic label says it’s ‘double matured’, and based on the whisky’s characteristics I doubt this means anything other than a sherry finish.
Nose: The sherry finish makes its presence felt, with raisins and roasted nuts, followed by wood spices (cinnamon). This is mainly a sweet and spicy profile, with some fruit in the mix – clementines and apricots. Very pleasant and impeccable overall, it’s neither immature nor too grainy.
Palate: More fruit here – the clementine and apricot notes are stronger, along with orange peel, ripe red apples and perhaps some preserved fruit. Vanilla and fresh coffee round out the mainly fruity profile. This is a fresh and vibrant whisky with just the right amount of wood influence.
Finish: Long and mainly spicy as the fruit fade away first.
Comments: Fun fact: the first time I had this was at a blind tasting, and I thought it was a Glendronach 12. I like to think it says more about its quality and rather rich profile than about how good I am at identifying whisky blind. This is highly recommended, even if it’s not authentically Japanese.