Nikka Pure Malt is a Japanese blended malt that comes in black, white and red label varieties, all of which are bottled at 43%. The black is mainly composed of malt from the Yoichi distillery, the red from the Miyagikyo distillery and this one, the white, from Islay malt… which seems a bit weird. Really? Does this mean it isn’t Japanese at all? Does it mean they get whisky from Islay, ship it to Japan, blend it and then sell it back to us? It is confusing because the website says it is “a pure malt whisky made mainly with Islay, Scotland type malt”. That could mean the malted barley is like that used in Islay, or that the whisky is in the Islay style, or even that they’ve bought a load of Islay malts and blended them. I’ve asked them, and they haven’t replied. However, numerous other blogs mention that whisky from the Yoichi distillery is blended with whisky from Islay. I don’t know where they all got this from, but enough of them say it to suggest it must be true.
At this point (on the various other blogs) discussion moves over to which Islay distillery provides the scotch portion, which the general consensus being Caol Ila since other distilleries are either allied with the Suntory distillery or don’t produce malt of this character. Further “proof” is supplied by detecting a taste of soap both in this bottling and in Caol Ila… though not to my mind. It does make sense on flavour profile that Caol Ila might be the mystery ingredient, but I don’t taste soap in either. Ruminations also become obsolete if you consider that blending whisky is supposed to create all manner of results – including revealing characteristics that weren’t originally present in any of the constituent parts. So, as ever, it can’t really be said to mean anything.
It is interesting that my friend Phil bought me this as a birthday present, and I had also coincidentally bought him a vatted malt for his. I got the better deal though, as his was a Cutty Sark. We tried both and first impressions were that the Nikka is better, though I don’t have any extensive comparison notes for you – he took his Cutty Sark home, and I enjoyed the Nikka over the next couple of months in peace.
Inside a plain but intriguing brown cardboard box you get a unique bottle with a wide but stubby neck that is almost like a jar and similarly proportioned cork.
You can expect to pay between £35 and £45, which I consider to be decent value, though you have to remember you’re only getting 50cl, so ultimately you’re going to be asking yourself whether you could pick up 70cl of one of your favourite Islay malts for a similar price and whether you’d prefer that.
Fruity with a rich saltiness on entry, this gives way to leather notes and a pleasant earthiness, before finishing a little too dry and slightly bitter.
Nikka White Label certainly has a lot to offer in terms of complexity. It’s very enjoyable, though sadly the half litre bottle restricts the opportunity to appreciate it fully.
Still, this is a very impressive spirit, which ranks right up with the best I’ve sampled this year so far – single malt or otherwise. The price and volume are a little prohibitive ( I can indeed get 70cl of a number of my favourite Islay malts for a similar price), but it’s definitely worth a punt, and if you’re looking for a gift to impress a whisky drinker, you won’t be far off the mark with this one.
It’s been nice chatting to you once again. Come back next week for some more booze related things.