Category Archives: Nikka

The Jewish Single Malt Whisky Society’s favorite whiskies of 2010

This is quite possibly one of the toughest posts I’ll do this year.  Being that in 2010 alone I reviewed over 200 whiskies; I’d say the choosing of the 11 whiskies below was uber-hard.  Thankfully it’s the first post of the year so it’s nice to get the hard schtuff out of the way 😉

The following list is not meant to be a shopping guide for you though I highly suggest that you seek out the whiskies on this list – they really are the best of the best of all the whiskies I reviewed in 2010.  Just in case you do wish to use this list as a shopping guide, I’ve included links (where applicable) to online shops so you can purchase a bottle if you wish.

Being that I don’t currently use a rating system, you might wonder how I chose the whiskies below.  Good question.  I basically read through all of my reviews and scoured my memory banks to try and remember the experience.  Once I made my choices, if I still had some of the whisky left, I tasted it again just to make sure I’ve chosen well.

And just so you know, this is not a list of best whiskies released in 2010.  Rather, it’s a list of best whiskies I tasted in 2010.

So, what are the categories?  They are as follows:

  • Best Bourbon
  • Best Rye
  • Best American Single Malt
  • Best Scotch sherrybomb
  • Best Scotch peated whisky
  • Best Scotch Non, or lightly peated whisky
  • Best Scotch blend
  • Best Japanese blend
  • Best Japanese single malt
  • Best every (or any) day drinker
  • Best whisky of 2010 (taking ALL whisk(e)ys reviewed into consideration)

Best Bourbon – Angel’s Envy

Noses quite different than your standard bourbon.

This bourbon was extra matured in ex-port barrels.

While yet to be released, we should see this on the shelves in 2011 – expect to pay around $45 per bottle.

This was easily my favorite bourbon this year – kudos goes out to the Louisville Distilling Company for taking chances in making the first release an experimental one.

You can read the full review here.

Best Rye – Rittenhouse Rye 100 Proof

I’m not sure what’s best about this rye…

Is it great because it’s always released at full proof (50% ABV)?

Perhaps it’s due to the fact that it’s less than $20 per bottle?

Could it be that, flavor-wise, it’s damned robust and lip-smacking?

At $20 a bottle (or £25 in the UK), go find out for yourself.

You can read my full review here.

Best American Single Malt – Stranahan’s Colorado Whiskey

If you thought America was unable to produce a kick-ass single malt, think again.

While Hudson has a solid 2nd runner up, the Stranahan’s Single Malt Colorado Whiskey is, well, amazingly balanced and damned delicious!

You can read my full review here.

You can get a bottle for $57 in the USA here or a bottle for £64 in the UK here.

Best Scotch sherrybomb – Bruichladdich, 1986, “Blacker Still”

I never formally reviewed this whisky on the blog so I’m going to do that here and now (sans pictures – to save space).

On the nose Massive amounts of chocolate, prunes and dirty, dirty smoke.  Some soapiness and sea breeze.  Balsamic vinaigrette.  Pine wreathes (welcome to the Christmas aisle at your local department store).  Think pine embers from a recently dead fire.  Wet dog.  Fresh towels.

On the mouth This dram does not believe that size doesn’t matter.  Luizianne coffee.  Bitter cherries.  Generous amounts of rich sherry.  Raisins and more cherries (the dry type).  All of the pure licorice chews from the All Sorts bag (oh, I want some All Sorts now!).  Rubber fishing boots with sea salt on them.  Toffee, more coffee, more… simply more of everything I mentioned.  Like I said, this is massive!  Did I mention the mouth feel is oily and num-num-nummy?

FinishChocolate sauce and lasting notes of prunes and pines.

In sum Man, this whisky shines like a black star! Balanced – all the flavors are perfectly integrated.  If you’re not a sherry head, this would not be up your alley.  If you are into the sherried whiskies and have the cash for a bottle, welcome to yumsville!  For holidays and all things celebratory.  Good luck finding some of this whisky though… It’s been sold out for a good long while.  You may be able to find a bottle here on occasion.

Special thanks to Rick C for the sample (yes, THE Rick from the Blind Tasting series I did earlier this year)!!

Best Scotch peated whisky – Port Ellen 1978, 24yo, 2nd release

Sadly, most people will not have a chance to taste this whisky.  In fact, this release of Port Ellen is no longer available.  You may be able to find a bottle here on occasion but be prepared to spend a few hundred Euros.

Port Ellen is a distillery located on Islay that has been moth-balled (closed & not in operation) for decades now so any whisky you find from them is going to be old & expensive.

A big thanks to Keith of Whisky Emporium for the sample!

This whisky was a pure treat to taste – You can read my full review here.

Best Scotch Single Malt  – Non or lightly peated – Glenmorangie Quarter Century

Glenmorangie Quarter Century can easily be an over looked and understated whisky.  I think the biggest issue is, because it costs so damn much($559 – $799 in the US or £190 in the UK), people will save this whisky until the end of an evening or served as the last whisky in a tasting.  That’s a BIG no-no.  The Quarter Century is way too delicate for that.  I would lead off with this whisky in a tasting or have it before dinner.  It’s a total power house in a settings such as those.

Liquid gold.

You can read my full review here.

Best Scotch blend – Compass Box Hedonism

Sadly, I did not taste or review enough blends this year.  Luckily for me, I got the chance to taste & review a few Compass Box whiskies.

Hedonism is a blend of premium grain whiskies – no malted barley whatsoever.

Complex as all heck – a joy to nose.  Buttery smooth mouth feel with notes of gingerbread and an interesting nuttiness to it.  A wonderful whisky that would also go brilliantly in a mint julep.  But, unless you’ve got money to burn, you’d be dumb to do so.  Expect to pay $89 in the US or £47 in the UK.

You can read my full review here.

Best Japanese blend – Suntory Hibiki 21yo

I was, to put it lightly, blown away by this Japanese blend.

You can read my full review here but I’ll tell you right here and now – this is an expertly crafted whisky.

A whisky that’s VERY hard to come by, the Suntory Hibiki 21 has won three gold metals, three years in a row and has just won the title of “World’s Best Blended Whisky” in 2010 by the WWA.

This is not available in the US, expect to pay £103.40 | ¥13,700 for a bottle.

Big thanks, again, goes out to Yoshi at Suntory for the sample!

Best Japanese single malt – Nikka Yoichi, 20yo, 1988 vintage

A massive, big, huge, immense THANK YOU goes out to Christopher Jew of  The Whisky Wall for a sample of this nectar.

I’ve enjoyed Japanese whiskies for a while now but it was this particular whisky that sort of stopped me in my tracks and told me that Japan is capable of pure genius when it comes to the craft of whisky making (among other things).

While this 1988 vintage is no longer available, you can get the standard 20yo Nikka Yoichi for £185 here and the 1989 vintage for £180 here.

You can read my full review here.


Best every (or any) day drinker – Glenmorangie Original 10yo

You’d think choosing THE BEST every day whisky would be easy to do but no, it isn’t.

Lot’s of factors to consider – taste, complexity, ease of drinking, ease of getting your non-whisky drinkers to appreciate it (without adding a shit ton of ice or just knocking it back) and, of course, price.

For me, my favorite every day drinker is the Glenmorangie Original 10yo.

For just under $40 in the US or £25 in the UK you can’t go wrong.

There were a few runners up, however.  All of them could have fit the bill of “Best every (or any) day drinker” but, I had to choose only one.

The runners up are:

You can read the full Glenmorangie review here (though please know that this review is a combined review of me and a few members of my society)

Best whisky of 2010 (taking ALL whisk(e)ys reviewed into consideration) – Suntory Hibiki 21yo

A lot of hemming and hawing on my part but after much consideration, I’ve come to the conclusion that this whisky, the Suntory Hibiki 21yo, is the best whisky I tasted in 2010.

It truly is brilliance in a glass!  So well composed, perfectly balanced and perfectly delicious.

As mentioned above, you can read my full review here.

This is not available in the US, expect to pay £103.40 | ¥13,700 for a bottle.

Nikka Whisky from the Barrel

Japan – 51.4% ABV –  50cl – $40 | £25 | €29

Welcome, my friends, to Desert Island dram-land.

This past Friday I ended the week on with a review on quite possibly one of the worst whiskies I’ve ever had.  I’m not one who normally ends the week on a bad note but hey, whatevs – “I do what I want

I figured, however, that being that I ended on such a negative note last week that I should start off this week with one of the best whiskies out there – especially for the money.

A solid Japanese blended whisky from Nikka that has a permanent spot on my whisky shelf.

Nikka “Whisky from the Barrel”:

On the nose Jolly Rancher grapefruit sweetness, big oak (like a baseball bat being stuck up my nose), turmeric, floral and spiced, old books…

Some slight pipe tobacco (while pipe is burning).

The list is going on and on and on…

Taking a break…

A return to the nose reveals holiday cake (OK, Christmas Cake) and artificial chocolate.

On the mouth Spicy, chewy caramels.

Vanilla, more oak (damp, damp oak).

Last year’s gone-soft Werther’s candies.

Finish A nice length with lasting vanilla and oak spice candles.

In sum At 25gbp for 50cl, this is an insane steal. This is an everyday dram for me.  Cracking, powerful, easy drinking and a well crafted cask strength Japanese blended whisky.

I’m not the only one who has a woody over this one —  you can read Jason of Guid Scotch Drink notes here, Gal of Whisky Israel’s notes here (toward the very bottom of the post) and you can read the notes from Whisky for Everyone here.

Nikka Yoichi 5 year old Single Cask #400862

Japan – 64%ABV –  $|£|€ ???

There are many great truths in the world.  Some are quite simple:  2+2=4, “I” comes before “E” except after “C” (with a few exceptions), kittens are really quite adorable.  Some truths are not so simple, but are truths nonetheless:  Chaos theory, String theory (yes, I know these are theories but there’s a certain amount of truthiness to them), your pee after a side of asparagus is going to smell really funky!

My whisky simple truth?  I love Japanese whiskies.  Arigato Japan.

My not so simple truth?  The fact that I have to tell you how much this whisky made me want to throw up in my mouth.  Just a little.

On the nose I am instantly hit with notes of sour milk and peat.  I think the word “notes” is a bit too soft a word for what I am experiencing here.

I am not digging the sour milk note, I’m going to let this breath for 7 or 8 minutes…

Man, the acridity to the nose on this whisky is almost overwhelming.

Quite gamey and almost like rotting meat (am I going to drink this?  It’s quite the stink!).

Soft peat and molasses.

The milk is back but it from sour to sweeter than previously detected.

Out of the blue some very nice coffee notes, almost like a latte.  A touch of mocha.

With water it’s all on spirit and oak but, mostly, spirit.  Strange that water would increase the spirit quality and not cut it…

On the mouth Amazingly hot and big toasted oak notes.  Toffee as well.

Must. Add. Water.

With water, it gets very sugary (sugar water).  Skim milk and biscuits.  Thin mouth feel.

This whisky needs a ton of time to open up.  After about 25 minutes (yes, I waited this long) the peat smoke evolves and almost seems to transform this whisky into a coffee-toffee treat (albeit a high octane moonshine infused coffee-toffee treat).

Finish Long and warming.

In sumThere is *a lot* going on with this whisky but most of it I just didn’t like.  Those acrid and rotting notes I got just turned me off.  When would I enjoy this?  Maybe after it matured for another 10 – 15 years…

Special thanks goes out to Christopher of Whisky Wall for the sample.  To read Christopher’s review of this whisky, click here.

Nikka Yoichi 20yr 1988 Vintage

Japan – 55%ABV – 700ml bottle – $|£|€ ???

No matter where I look, this whisky is sold out.  And, I think I know why  (see my notes below) – here’s what the good folks over that The Whisky Exchange have to say about it:

“A follow up to the incredible Nikka 1987 vintage 20yo that won the World’s Best Single Malt at last year’s World Whiskies Awards, this 1988 is a full-strength mix of both light and heavily-peated whiskies from new oak, refill casks, bourbon barrel and sherry butts – sounds phenomenal.”

Phenomenal??  Hell yes.  A HUGE thanks to The Whisky Wall for the sample!

On the nose Oh mercy, what an amazing nose!

Very strange notes of baklavah, pipe tobacco (being smoked), kim chee and sherry.

Deep dried fruit (like a fried compote filled with plums and apricots – actually, I’m reminded of a Charoset I had a couple of years back.).

Insanely easy to nose.

A tad spicy and (like many Japanese whiskies I’ve had) some sweet top notes that remind me of bourbon.

Green tea and dark chocolate with elegant peat smoke.

On the mouth Like chewing on chocolate covered fresh tobacco leaves.

Both salty and smoky (like smoked capers).

Dried dates and papaya.  Floral potpourri.

Stewed fruits then a highlight on sweetly smoked lemons.

Finish Lasting fruit – every dried fruit imaginable, lovely & lasting.

In sum– Quite remarkable, really; nearing on ridiculous (or ludicrous) as to how good this whisky was.  The balance is remarkable and at 55%, with the nose/palate/finish combination it’s very drinkable.  Only 3500 bottles were made available and, you guessed it, not in the US.  Feck.

This is a very contemplative dram.  If you can get your hands on some of this, save it for some “YOU” time.  Sit back, enjoy the cool breeze (maybe throw a sweater on, light a fire) and think about “what it all means”.

Nikka Yoichi 12yr Japanese Whisky – Holy Complexity Batman!

Japan – 45%ABV – 700ml –  £72

So, in case you haven’t guessed it already, I am not a whisky blogger/reviewer for a living.  I have passions and this is one of them.  I am also a musician; I play bass guitar in a rock band called Kimono Draggin’.

In real life, I am a traveling salesman.  Most of my time away from home (Connecticut) is spent in Chicago, Milwaukee, New York, etc…  Occasionally, however, I do get to go to some really cool and different places (not knocking Chicago, New York or Milwaukeee, I love those towns) such as Montreal.

I was in Montreal this past Sunday & Monday.  What a cool and vibrant city!  First off, everyone in Montreal is a model.  I don’t know how they do it but every one is hot out there.  Very cool.  My extra 15 pounds made me feel like the fattest American in the world.  Additionally, while I was out there I ran into Kirsten Dunst on her way into a vegan restaurant, which was uber-cool.

I ran in to Kirsten (though, admittedly, she didn’t give me this fancy look.  I think she may have been scared that I was paparazzi or something…) on my way to The Whisky Cafe which boasts 150+ malts in stock.  They also have a cigar bar.  I had to go; come on, right!!!  While I was there I got the chance to try a whisky not available in the US: Nikka Yoichi 12yr (actually, Nikka, regardless of age or expression, is not available in the US; a total bust if you ask me)

So here’s my thoughts on this Japanese whisky:

Initial whiffsReally fruity!! Strawberries, lots of them, pepper, vanilla (it almost noses like the Glenfarclas 15yr, perhaps it’s the spicy pepperiness of it all).  With a dash of water caramel comes through, big time, chocolate & old wooden furniture.

On the mouth Very thin palate, more like Grappa, effervescent (little bubbles and fast ones at that), plastic shopping bags and white grape soda (if there were a thang).  Again, with a dash of water, it get quite earthy, almost a damp earth quality to it and less thin

Finish Tannic, very drying, the effervescence remains but with that water, the creaminess carries through.

In sumThere is a lot here – a whole hell of a lot here and each level of tasting had something new to offer.  You could drink this and not think about it but if you set out to taste it rather than drink it well… you’re in for one hell of a fun ride.  Well done Nikka!!