Nikka: Whisky Advocate's Japanese Whisky of the Year
Whiskey Advocate Announces 23rd Annual Japanese Whisky of the Year
The Whisky Advocate just named Nikka Yoichi Single Malt as Japanese Whisky of the Year for 2016. This is a single malt from the Yoichi distillery, Nikka's first distillery built in 1934. The founder Masataka Taketsuru chose Yoichi in Hokkaido because of the similar environmental conditions to Scotland, where he learned whisky making. Yoichi single malt has pleasant peaty notes and smokiness originating from the traditional direct coal-fired distillation as well as a briny hint delivered by the sea breeze during the aging process.
This is the second time in the last four years that a Nikka bottling has earned this distinction.
Yoichi Single Malt, 45%
For the optimists out there, rejoice! U.S. liquor stores are stocking a greater variety of Japanese whiskies produced by a greater number of distillers than for many years. For the pessimists out there, disaster! We still get to grumble about the profusion of whiskies with young or no age statements to our hearts’ content, carp on about steep prices charged by producers relatively new to making whisky, and wallow in our reminiscences about tasting legendary Japanese whiskies. But wait; the global whisky community’s longing for quality Japanese whisky is not an entirely unrequited desire. The latter half of this decade may prove to be leaner years for Japanese whisky drinkers compared to the decade before, but the situation has provided a stimulus to spirits producers across Japan. New distilleries are being erected, and whiskies are being released by companies better known as brewers or sake and shōchū makers. Meanwhile, the major companies are trying to balance demand, expectations, quality, and creativity. Blenders love the freedom to work on a characterful whisky from their inventory, unencumbered by a minimum age.
Nikka Whisky’s Yoichi Single Malt is a new expression and a rare breed as the only surviving Yoichi in the U.S. market. This year’s award recipient typifies the classic maritime and peaty elements of the Hokkaido distillery. A compelling nose of black earthy peat, smoldering fires, a turned-out pocket of briny seashells, whole lime, lemon twist, sugared orange, ground ginger, and licorice. Silky smooth on the tongue, with light, fruity sweetness developing into tangy Spangles, kiwi, and lime juice. The smoky peat is the weft woven through the fruit structure’s warp. Menthol, peat, and leather go the distance. This Japanese whisky is delicious, elegant, and affordable; perfectly pitched for cogitative drinking by those loyal to the Japanese single malt scene.—Jonny McCormick