A lot of people are now familiar with whiskies from Japan; they’ve had a lot of publicity in recent years and the surge in their popularity has outstripped supply making some of them very hard to obtain and caused prices to rocket. Whiskies from places like India and Taiwan, although not as well-known, are also starting to gain some recognition. The whiskies for this virtual meet were selected by Jo (Mrs Whiskipedia as some people have referred to her!) and supplied by a good friend of SWC - Arkwrights Whisky in Highworth, near Swindon. Well worth a visit when restrictions permit.
Amrut Single Malt kicked off the evening, hailing from Bangalore in India. Amrut means ‘elixir of life’ – a great name for a distillery! Their single malt is matured in ex-bourbon barrels and new oak, bottled at a pleasing 46% ABV and retailing for around £46.
Nose: Oranges and lemons, some floral notes. apricot, hay, and mint in the background
Taste: Honey sweetness and cereal, somewhat akin to a ‘Crunchy Bar’, vanilla from the bourbon barrel, some warming spices, maybe nutmeg, clove and cinnamon
Finish: Creamy toffee, oak and a lingering warm spiciness
Kavalan Single Malt distilled in Taiwan was our next dram. Kavalan distillery is named after indigenous natives of the region and started production of whisky in 2006 under the guidance of the renowned Scotsman and whisky guru Dr Jim Swan. Their single malt is bottled at a disappointing 40% ABV and sells for around £55.
Nose: Vanilla toffee sweetness, banana skins and mango
Taste: Cream fudge, honey, star anise
Finish: Warming spice makes way for tannic dryness, but lacks punch
Nikka Coffey Malt Whisky out of the Yoichi distillery in Japan is unusual in that it is distilled in a continuous still. The ‘Coffey’ in its title refers to the first continuous still patented in 1830, named after its inventor. Being distilled in a continuous still classifies this as a grain whisky. To add insult to injury the Japan Spirits and Liquor Makers Association very recently introduced a ruling that to be called ‘Japanese Whisky’ all ingredients must be sourced from Japan. Coffey Malt includes some Ben Nevis distillate in the mix, and as a result, it can no longer be called Japanese Whisky. Bottled at 45% ABV and selling for around £60.
Nose: Complex with butterscotch, oak, honey, ripe banana, chocolate, orange, apple
Taste: Crème brulee, sponge cake, caramel, vanilla ice cream
Finish: Cream and spice linger
Nikka Miyagikyo Single Malt from the Miyagiko distillery, the second of Nikka’s distilleries in Japan and celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2019. The founder of Nikka Whisky chose a valley on the main island of Japan to give a complete contrast in environment and character from the Yoichi distillery on the north island.
Nose: Initial musty aroma, walnut, crisp apple, banana
Taste: Mild blue cheese, ginger, honey & toffee
Finish: Sweet and smooth, then becomes drying with lingering white pepper spiciness
So how did we rate them?
The Nikka Coffey just crept in ahead of the Amrut, followed by the Kavalan. We had expected more from the Miyagikyo but disappointingly it trailed in in last place.
Which bottle would we buy for our collection? The Amrut, it came second in our tasting, but a very close second, and at £9 a bottle less (almost 20%) it offers better value for money.