weller antique 107 review

Nikka From the Barrel Review

nikka from the barrel review

Distillery: Nikka (blend of Yoichi and Miyagikyo whiskeys)

Type & Region: Japanese Whiskey, Japan

Alcohol: 51.4%

Composition: Blend of single malt and single grains whiskeys

Aged: NAS

Color: 1.2/2.0 on the color scale (chestnut, oloroso sherry)

Price: $70-80 MSRP

From the Nikka website:

“Nikka From The Barrel is a blended whisky created to deliver full flavors and richness of whisky “from barrels” which only blenders can sniff and taste. The iconic bottle is designed to reflect “a small block of whisky” – embodying the rich, strong taste of the whisky within. From The Barrel is an extremely complex blended whisky bottled at 51.4% ABV. In order to deliver its richness and full flavors, the blended liquid goes into used barrels for another few months for “marriage” before it is bottled.”

Company Website

weller antique 107 overview

If you haven’t heard, Japanese is more popular than ever before. Nikka, owned by Asahi, is one of the leaders, creating a variety of whiskeys at its Yoichi and Miyagikyo distilleries. Some are sold as single malts with the distillery name on it, and the rest are blended together in various ways under the Nikka label. As much as many fawn over Japanese whiskey, I personally have a love/hate relationship with it because I think it can be incredible, but it’s too frequently drowned in water. In my short time drinking Japanese whiskey, I’ve been completely blown away by Nikka Pure Malt 21 Year, not particularly impressed with Yamazaki 12 or Nikka Coffey Grain, and completely turned-off by Ohishi Sherry Cask. This time I’m drinking Nikka From the Barrel, Nikka’s highest proof offering at 51.4%, a massive jump from the standard 43%. 

 

Nikka From the Barrel, Whisky Advocate’s 2018 Whisky of the Year, is a blend of single malt and single grain whiskeys, made in the same way that Blended Scotch Whiskeys are (except not made in Scotland). Over 100 whiskeys are blended together, aged in various bourbon barrels, sherry butts, and more to create this Japanese whiskey. Oddly, “From the barrel” does not mean cask strength, it actually is equivalent to 90 British Proof. Regardless, I’m excited to get to know this whiskey, so let’s get exploring in this Nikka From the Barrel review.

weller antique 107 smell

While Nikka From the Barrel is a blend of bourbon and sherry-aged whiskeys, the bolder sherry notes explode out of the glass with blueberries and strawberries, honey-drizzled dates, dark orange syrup, and a few drops of vanilla cream. Hints of cocoa powder and milk chocolate bubble to the top now and then, reminding me of the malted barley and lighter oak and spice influences. Buried under the wave of spiced sweetness is a subtle peat note that infuses some smoke and earth, but it’s far from Laphroaig-level. Compared to other Japanese whiskeys, Nikka From the Barrel has a stronger alcohol presence, but it mostly stays out of the way to let me appreciate the core fruit, vanilla, and spice scents.

 

Swirling gives off more of the same scents. I smell a lot of sweet and floral honey, berries, and candied cherries with a dollop of cream. It’s almost berry parfait-like. Underneath the sweetness and alcohol are some subtle oak and spice that counterbalance the sweetness and provide darkness and mustiness. Additional swirling coaxes out a little more floral character and just a bit of horseradish, which is strange, but I swear it’s there. Nikka From the Barrel smells so rich and deep, overall an incredible smelling whiskey. 

weller antique 107 taste & aftertaste

Nikka From the Barrel is packed with sweet honey, caramel, vanilla cream, and fruits including berries, plums, dates, and oranges. The vanilla cream reinforces the grain whiskey’s presence, providing slightly buttery flavors that add wonderful richness and mouthfeel. Noticeable cinnamon and nutmeg spiced chocolate flavors make their way into every corner of my palate as well. The oak and peat are sedate, letting the sweetness take the lead, while the alcohol, sometimes punchy, is generally controlled. All these rich spiced berry and cream flavors are incredibly similar to sherry-aged Scotch, but that’s likely by design.

 

With “chewing”, I taste honey, vanilla, berries, cherries, roasted chocolate, and baked bread. It’s a very fruity sweetness with a hint of floral character. That same blend of cinnamon, nutmeg, and clove also appears, followed by a small dose of oak and peat that provide contrasting darkness and earthiness. The alcohol thankfully isn’t punishingly hot, but still leaves a nice tingle in my mouth.

 

The finish is sweet and dry with honey, berries, oak, cinnamon, bread, and just a little mint. I’m guessing that there’s just enough older stock in Nikka From the Barrel to add that minty freshness without any rye. After “chewing”, I still get honey, berries, and oak, but now I also get a few drops of cantaloupe. Oak bitterness primarily controls the finish after a minute or so, but it’s still very pleasant. This is just a spectacular tasting whiskey with so much to discover.

Place on the Whiskey Shelf

Top Shelf

Wow, Nikka From the Barrel is incredible. The stronger sherry character really shines through, supplemented with the bourbon-aged, grain, and peaty whiskey components to create an incredibly pungent, rich, flavorful, and interesting whiskey. It’s a masterful blend that’s nearly on par with Ben Nevis 18 and Ben Nevis Old Malt 21 (both single barrel), some of the best sherried Scotches I’ve had in the past few years. Nikka From the Barrel also smells and tastes exceedingly better than Macallan Classic Cut 2018 Edition, one of Macallan’s higher proof releases that ended up being fairly disappointing. 

My main, albeit minor, critique is that the scents and flavors aren’t quite as clearly defined as they are in the great Ben Nevis Scotches, which have the pop, clarity, and definition of the first bite of fruit at the peak of freshness. All of that may come from from the older age statement and single barrel nature, but it’s something that prevents Nikka from getting to “Top Shelf+” status.

 

In a blind tasting, I honestly wouldn’t be able to tell that this was Japanese whiskey instead of Scotch, but that is inconsequential. What matters is that Nikka From the Barrel is worth buying for your own shelf. If you’re looking for amazing Japanese whiskey or whiskey in general, this is one to strongly consider. 

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