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Nikka From The Barrel: Exploring One Of Japan's Finest Whiskies And Its Fascinating History

When it comes to exploring the illustrious history and intricate nuances of Japanese whisky, few are better than Nikka from the Barrel. In this post I will dive into what makes this whisky truly unique - from its flavor profile to its history.

How it all began

Nikka Whisky, was founded by Masataka Taketsuru, who is often considered the father of Japanese whisky. Taketsuru was born in 1894 in a small town in southern Japan and was exposed to the world of whisky at a young age - his father owned a sake brewery and occasionally distilled whisky as well. This sparked Taketsuru's interest in the spirit, and he eventually went to Scotland to study distillation at the famed Glasgow School of Art.

Taketsuru and his wife Rita returned to Japan in 1920 and he began working for Suntory, one of the country's largest spirit companies. He eventually rose to head distiller, and oversaw the construction of Suntory's first whisky distillery, Yamazaki, in 1923.

In 1934, Taketsuru left Suntory to strike out on his own, founding Nikka Whisky. He built his first distillery in Yoichi on the island of Hokkaido, where he believed the climate was more similar to Scotland's than anywhere else in Japan. Nikka's first whisky - NIKKA WHISKY - was released in 1940 and quickly gained a reputation for being high quality.

A tale of two distilleries

The production process for Nikka from the Barrel blend begins at the two Nikka distilleries: the Yoichi Distillery and Miyagikyo Distillery, where they also distill grain whisky.

Masataka sought to create a thorough difference between the Miyagikyo and Yoichi distilleries. In addition to having a unique terroir, Miyagikyo uses a unique distillation process to produce malt whiskies with a distinct flavor.

The pot stills at Miyagikyo are significantly bigger than those at Yoichi and have unique shapes like a bulge neck and an ascending lyne arm. These pot stills can distill more slowly because the indirect steam heating provides for much lower temperatures. To create the Nikka from the barrel whisky however, only grain whisky produced at the Miyagikyo distillery is used.

Nikka from the Barrel

Nikka from the Barrel was first introduced in 1985 as a high-proof, cask-strength blend. It is a signature blended whisky that you may have seen in bars and in the spirits aisles of many stores, gaining popularity year on year.

The whisky is created by blending different single malt and grain whiskies that have been aged in a variety of barrels, including bourbon barrels, sherry butt, and hogsheads. The blend is then allowed to marry for several months in used barrels before being bottled at 51.4% alcohol by volume.

The whisky has a lovely gold color and offers many flavor components which you could start to expect from a legacy product, but all without sacrificing complexity and its unique character.

The whisky has a nicely balanced, yet spicy nose, complemented with fresh fruits, cut flowers, and a hint of wood. It has a hint of vanilla, some citrus zest, along with a little smoke. The whisky has an intense opening on the palate that is spicy but well balanced. Punchy and full-bodied, there is a decent mouthful of fruit as well as a good amount of toffee and winter spice. The fruit and sweetness dry out with the tannins as the finish lengthens, filled with spices and oak.

Those who have tried the Nikka from the Barrel know that this whisky has become known for its rich, complex flavor profile, and hopefully you can agree with me that this whisky is a testament to the blending skills of the Nikka Whisky Distilling Company.


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