For Japanese whisky lovers, August will show a brief silver lining among a seemingly endless series of clouds. Most of the news from Japan for the last couple of years has been about discontinued products, lower-than-expected volumes, and generally severe shortages of the stuff everyone has been craving. But the United States will actually see a new Japanese whisky release for the first time in a couple of years, and it’s actually a familiar and well-loved product. Nikka From the Barrel is a cask strength whisky aged to maturity in a variety of casks, expertly blended, then allowed to marry for an additional three to six months in oak again before heading to the bottling line.
It’s a real win for a bedraggled U.S. market, where demand is high and supply seems to defy odds by dwindling more every quarter.
In fact, the blend is perfectly in sync with the heart of the Japanese whisky ethos. Japanese whisky pride is built around the idea of balance: not too light or dark or smoky or sweet. Perfect for sipping but ideal, especially with regard to the blends, for mixing with club soda for a refreshing high ball.
According to Nikka, From the Barrel is the result of more than 100 different batches, distinguished from one another by differing recipes, stills, and sizes of barrel and cask.
Blending can be a little like mixing crayons together on a sheet of paper: You might get something unique from combining two or three colors, but go too far and you’ll almost certainly end up with a muddy, brown mess. Because Japanese whisky’s essence is the art of perfect blending, the result of From the Barrel is the opposite: complex and clear.
The nose is fresh and slightly spicy, showing citrus, pears, and at the periphery, the rich aroma of freshly toasted oak. On the palate, it’s restrained, but spicy: cinnamon and wood for sure, but showing vanilla and toffee and hints of orange.
You should be sold on getting your hands on this one by now, but you may be hesitant financially. After all, rare Japanese whisky can fetch hundreds of thousands these days, and even the off-the-shelf stuff has seen stark inflation.
One of the biggest questions for whisky lovers was whether we’d see a full 750 ml. bottle release, or whether Nikka would stick closer to its 500 ml. from the barrel bottle that you’d be likely to find in Japan or other markets. Since the United States has specific standards for volume when it comes to spirits, we were surprised to see that, rather than sticking with a smaller size, it went with the full 750.
That, coupled with a relatively affordable price of $65, will definitely make this a must-try bottle for anyone who has enjoyed Japanese whisky in the past. It’ll be available in the United States starting in August.
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