Nikka’s secret

We at dekantā asked an insider in the Japanese alcoholic beverage business, Nakai san to tell us a few things he knows about the business. This week, he is going to tell us an interesting fact on Nikka’s blended whiskies. Let’s give him the word:

If you have ever tried one of Nikka’s blends, such as The Taketsuru for example, you have probably noticed their strong scent. Why is it that Nikka’s whiskies have such strong scent? Let me explain:

Most whiskies are either single malts or blended. The mention of ‘single’ in a whisky’s name derives from the fact that a single type of barley is used to produce these particular malts; although wetted whisky, where many malts are blended together, also exists. Then, of course, there are blended whiskies, blended from malts and grain.

Grain whiskies also exist, but they are by no means the most popular of the whisky world. In fact, most grain whiskies are made for blending with malt whiskies. Modern stills, used to produce grain whisky, are extremely efficient and fast, but the downside is that this is sometimes at the expense of taste.

However, this hasn’t always been the case. For a long time, Coffey stills were used, being named after their inventor, Aeneas Coffey. Coffey stills are not nearly as efficient as modern stills, as they take much longer to operate, and operators find them much more complex to use. The scent that they leave, on the other hand, is much stronger than in modern stills.

Masataka Taketsuru, the founder of Nikka, introduced these mills in 1963 and Nikka still uses them to this day. These mills are currently installed in the Miyagikyo distillery in Sendai, and continue to be used for the production of grain whisky.

The results are extremely strong in scent. In fact, Nikka’s dedication, and their refusal to exchange quality for technology and comfort, is one of the main reasons for the company being so highly regarded in Japan. This constant insistence for quality also results in this whisky being closer in nature to Scotch, with a more powerful scent than competitors. It is because of this that Nikka is highly regarded among bartenders (and I should know, I was one for many years). If you haven’t tried Nikka blended whisky, I wholly recommend that you do. The Taketsuru is an excellent example of Nikka blended malt, and Nikka Black is another popular example. Give it a try!