On June 11th, Nikka is officially launching its regular – i.e. not a single cask (of which there have been many) – no-age-statement Coffey Grain in Japan. It was first launched in September 2012 at Whisky Live Paris, and has since been available as part of the regular Nikka range in Europe. Now, it will also be part of the standard range in the home market. For some reason, the only difference between the European and the Japanese version is the size (500ml and 700ml, respectively).
Masataka Taketsuru imported a Coffey still from Scotland in 1963. He wanted a grain spirit that was – obviously – high in alcohol content but he also wanted to retain the character of the grain, its flavours and aromas. He wasn’t very keen on the newer – more widely used – types of continuous stills, precisely because he felt they stripped the spirit of too much flavour, so he went back to the Coffey still, which is notoriously difficult to operate but produces a more characterful spirit. Nikka originally produced its grain whisky at their Nishinomiya plant, but moved their grain whisky production – and the Coffey stills – to Miyagikyo distillery in 1999. Nikka’s grain whisky is distilled in the traditional way, using mainly corn and a small amount of malted barley.
Nikka’s Coffey Grain has received a warm welcome in Europe, especially from creative bartenders who enjoy using it to give classic cocktails a different slant. It’ll be interesting to see how the home front reacts to this new addition to the Nikka range. It’s bottled at 45% abv and will be priced at a little under (or over, depending on your retailer) 5,000 yen for a 700ml bottle.