This is a single malt from the Miyagikyo distillery, Nikka’s second distillery built in 1969. The founder Masataka Taketsuru chose this site in the mountains of Sendai to contrast with his first distillery, Yoichi, located in the coastal area. Using less peaty malt and distilled in a pot still heated by indirect steam, Miyagikyo single malt has an elegant fruitiness and a distinctive aroma with a strong Sherry cask influence.
Most surprisingly ,when we first poured this whisky, it released little in the way of aroma. Disappointed, we put it to the side. Imagine our surprise when, ten minutes later, a second sniff yielded heavy doses of toffee and caramel. The taste — full of strong, sweet vanilla — mimicked the nose’s form: slow to build, but impressive at its peak.
The colour is golden yellow and the nose is immediately fresh and full of fruit and spices. The fruity aromas come across as a mix of fresh green apple, orange zest and dried fruit (especially sultanas). These aromas combine superbly with some cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger powder. There are notes present also, most notably honey, vanilla and sweet malted cereal grains. It is a very promising start.
On the palate, it is the sweet malty cereals that hit the taste buds first and they give the whisky a creamy, almost velvety feel in the mouth. The palate then follows the nose quite closely as the fruit begin to come through the graininess – there are notes of dried apple, juicy sultanas, candied orange peel and a hint of something tropical that is difficult to pin down, but most reminiscent of dried mango. The next wave of flavour is full of warming wood spices, especially cinnamon and nutmeg followed by a pinch of ginger and all-spice. Everything combines and works well around a foundation of vanilla and honey-like notes. A late hint of distant peat smoke adds even further depth.
The late peat smoke comes through more on the lengthy finish. The predominant notes are honey and sweet malty cereals. These are backed up by the dried fruit (especially the sultanas) and the wood spices, which add a pleasant dryness.
This is a delicious whisky. It may be more expensive and more difficult to find that some other Japanese whiskies of a similar age, but it is worth searching out and spending that little bit extra.