Most whisky lovers have heard of Japanese Nikka Distillery. This brand has had a huge effect on the Japanese whisky scene. Founded by the ‘father of Japanese whisky’, Taketsuru Masataka, Nikka was founded in the town of Yoichi in Hokkaido, where the cold weather is similar to that of Scotland. After studying in Scotland for years, Taketsuru was determined to recreate the Scottish whisky distillation and maturation procedure as closely as possible. Nikka was one of his first attempts to do so, and a fine attempt it has been.
Nikka has since added several distilleries throughout Japan and even purchased one in Scotland: Ben Nevis. This distillery is growing and trying new finishes all the time, changing the whisky market with a willingness to experiment and producing many products that are just plain awesome. The brand is not available for sale in the United States; you can get a hold of some with a little scrambling, and in this case it probably is not worth it. However, the company is building a name for itself outside of Asia. Many connoisseurs feel that Nikka whiskies are equal in flavor and quality to those of established Scottish distilleries.
The Nikka Yoichi 5 Year Single Cask is just not worthy of this well-recognized name. It has many overpoweringly negative flavors that ruin any complexity or value. I am not sure what went wrong here, but something definitely did. I was a little disappointed in this whisky because it was difficult to come by and completely not worth the effort.
Nose: 16/25. The nose is strongly ethanolic with both malt and herbs. You can smell a little peat and dark coffee as well. There is a hint of unpleasant sourness that ruins most of the experience. This is not a smell that makes you want to sample the whisky, not at all.
Palate: 17/25. Again, there is a strong alcohol flavor along with malted barley and oak. A spicy note and a little pleasant toffee taste remains in the background. When you add water, the taste becomes sweet and cloying, along with a grainy touch. The overall effect is reminiscent of sweet cookies.
When you add water—and you will want to, because the Nikka Yoichi 5 is hard to drink without it—it can take up to 15 minutes for the whisky to open up completely. I recommend waiting the time.
Finish: 14/25. The finish is rather short, but drying and even numbing. It is not a pleasant sensation by any means. After water has been added, it becomes quite pleasant, long and warm and fuzzy.
Character: 16/25. The Nikka Yoichi 5 Year Single Cask is simple too young. It needs time to mature, for the unpleasant flavors to mellow and even be replaced by properties from the wood cask. The 10 Year is much better, which rather proves the point. Anyway, the 5 Year deserves points for the evolution with water, which is in itself interesting to experience.
Overall Rating for Nikka Yoichi 5 Year Single Cask Whisky: 63/100.