Earlier this year in an unsuspecting restaurant and bar in Chandler, Arizona, I was introduced to the magical world of Japanese whisky. Life hasn't quite been the same since.
One of several brands I tasted was Nikka. It's founder, the late Masataka Taketsuru, is referred to as the "Father of Japanese Whisky." Talk about title envy. Soon after my eye opening discovery, I was truly honored to be contacted by their US distributor Anchor Distilling about a brand partnership, at which point I was exposed to the rest of their non-age statement (NAS) line including Coffey Grain, Coffey Malt, Single Malt Miyagikyo, Single Malt Yoichi and Taketsuru Pure Malt.
Life is good, indeed.
Now, the term “coffey” refers to a rare, traditional still that Nikka imported from Scotland in 1963 (sorry coffee lovers, fret not though because coffee notes abound). The coffey still produces a complex whisky with a mellow and sweet taste originating from the grain itself. Science for the win!
Folks, if you’ve been on the fence about checking out some Japanese whisky consider this your sign! Nikka Coffey Grain is the best entry point in my opinion and you can usually find it ranging from $55-70. One of the best things about it is it's versatility – it’s excellent neat and in a good cocktail. Normally I consider mixing with my pricier spirits a sin, but when I do the results tend to be pretty awesome as one would expect.
Case in point below, where I combined a few of my favorite things into a beast of a flavorful cocktail that I cannot get enough of. These flavors and the amaro make for a perfect after dinner drink. If a Boulevardier hooked up with a chocolate, cherry and orange dessert, this would be their lovechild.
1 3/4 oz Nikka Coffey Grain
3/4 oz Amaro Montenegro
1/2 oz sweet vermouth
2 barspoons Luxardo cherry syrup
2 dashes Scrappy’s chocolate bitters
2 dashes Scrappy’s orange bitters
Combine all ingredients in a mixing glass with ice, stir, strain into a rocks glass with a king cube or sphere. Express an orange peel over the drink and garnish with Luxardo cherries. If cherry blossoms were as prevalent here as they are in Japan they would undoubtedly grace this cocktail.
You can find many more Nikka recipes from real, world-class bartenders on Anchor's website. I'm told this one might be added in there, which just blows my mind. If you had told me that a year and a half ago when I started @barrelageddad I'd have said you were crazy. Do what you love, folks, and crazy things can happen.
Stay tuned as I’ll be featuring some more Nikka recipes with their Coffey Malt, which won an award at the 2017 International Spirits Challenge. Coffey Grain got me into the family, but the Malt won my heart.