Japanese whisky has been among the best whiskey in the world for a long time now, and these bottles are some of the best drams available.
The Coffey stills used to distil this malt were first brought to Japan from Scotland in 1963. Since then, Nikka has produced several Coffey-distilled malts, but this is definitely one of its best. It begins with a sweet vanilla-filled nose, reminiscent of some bourbons. As with many Japanese whiskies, there’s a slightly floral and herby undertone that gives a nice depth to the dram. The vanilla is emboldened on the palate, where it’s joined with some malty and oaty flavors that further give it depth and complexity. There’s a sweeter note of juicy melons and grapes on the palate that rounds it up well. These bleed into the finish, where they are once again joined with rich malted notes that are mouthwateringly delicious.
Blended from expressions from Suntory’s Hakushu, Yamazaki and Chita distilleries, this is a blend that captures the harmony and smoothness of the best Japanese whiskies. The nose is fresh and crisp with green apples and pears to give a nice bite to it. It’s smothered with soft honey and vanilla notes that have a faint floral hint to them. These flavors are tied together with a delicate and subtle oak taste that continues into the palate. It takes on a distinctly more vanilla note here and is joined by green grapes, thyme and a slight hint of peppermint. The slightly herby flavor adds depth and refinement to a fantastically complex dram and goes well with the warming oak spices that also come through. The finish is strong, with more oak and vanilla, ending on a nicely rounded sweet note.
Named after Nikka’s founder, this is an exquisite malt with a delightful peated undertone that will have you begging for more. The nose is full of fruit and oak wood. Raisins, dried figs and apricots, alongside grapes, melons and blueberries, fill the nose on first sniff. These are soaked in a thick, golden honey that’s bolstered by a deep woody flavor. The palate brings in more citrus flavors with a sweet melted chocolate note to contrast their tang. The chocolate ties in perfectly with the wood and gives it a softer feel. These melt together on the finish, with oranges and lemons having the final say.
Although not as well known as its bigger rivals, Suntory and Nikka, this is a Japanese whisky that’s on the rise. Perhaps the most intriguing thing about Kikori is that it’s made entirely from rice. Distilled on the southern isle of Kyushu, this dram is aromatic and fragrant. It’s aged for three years and matured in French, American and Spanish oak casks. The nose is soft, with cherry blossom and petals coming through. There’s a fresh tang of orchard fruits that ties in well with the floral notes. The palate has a lot more wood in it, with sweet vanilla and coconut giving the oak depth. These, again, go hand in hand with the floral notes of the nose. There’s also a wonderfully sweet white chocolate flavor that’s the perfect complement to the cherry blossom. The finish is delicate and slightly warming.
Along with being Japan’s tallest distillery, standing at 2,600 feet, Mars Shishu also creates some of the best malt. Its Iwai Tradition is the epitome of Japanese malt. It’s layered and well-balanced, with delicate floral notes and lots of fruity sweetness. It has been matured in various sherry, wine and bourbon casks to give it a well-developed character. The nose opens with ripe cherries and a hint of milk chocolate and soft peat. These are found in harmony with ripe apples and juicy grapes. The fruit flavors continue into the palate, where they become softer and sweeter. They are coated in a rich, thick caramel that has a delicate vanilla note to it. The vanilla becomes slightly spicy, with ginger and cinnamon really making themselves known. The peated notes continue throughout this dram and round off well on the finish, which is long and delicate.
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