By Michael W. Harris
Type: Dry Gin
Base: Grant Neutral Spirit
Botanicals: Four Japanese citruses (Yuzu, Kabosu, Amanatsu and Shequasar), apples, green Japanese Sansho pepper, along with juniper, angelica, coriander seeds, lemon, and orange peels.
Distilling Notes: Nikka uses a “coffey still” in the production of their spirits.
I had been wanting to try a Japanese gin for a long time, but their distribution isn’t all that wide in the States. I finally found a bottle of Nikka Coffey Gin while in New York this past May for the annual Music and the Moving Image conference and, thanks to taking the train to New York from Williamsburg, VA, I was able to transport a bottle with me that subsequently made the move to Tennessee in August.
Either in conjunction with or because of the current revival of Japanese whisky that is causing shortages worldwide, several distilleries are ramping up production of spirts that do not require lengthy cask times to age, a practice more common to start-up distillers. While this is bad news for the lovers of brown spirits, gin lovers like myself I are stoked for new gins to explore.
On the nose I found Nikka to be quite pleasant (12/10), with notes of citrus and a little bite, but overall it reminded me a lot of the more citrus heavy gins like Tanqueray, especially No. 10. On the tongue there are some earthy notes as the pepper starts to come forward with the citrus, along with the juniper. Really there was a lot to like about Nikka right from the start.
On the backend, there is some bite and lingering flavors, but it is very pleasant in all aspects. The gin is smooth and well-balanced, with just enough bite to be exciting. Truly, right from the start, I could tell that it was a gin that was worth the effort of finding a way to squeeze it into my train luggage amongst my dirty clothes!
Gin and Tonic
Ah, gin and tonic. My salve during the holiday stress season (12/12). The Nikka and tonic is sweet and tangy. Full bodied and rich. There is a lot of flavor to be had, with just enough spice to give it some bite. And while I feel weird saying this after last week, there might be a bit too much body to it!
It goes down with just a bit of burn, but the flavors that linger are tasty. It is just as sweet in the throat as it was on the palate, and makes for a really good, and yet different, drinking experience. In terms of flavor profile, I would put a Nikka and tonic somewhere between a Tanqueray No. 10 and the Dogfish Head Compelling Gin.
The Pink Nikka is sharp, but the sweet and tangy notes present in the gin and tonic are still present and identifiable (12/13). It is fairly subdued when compared to many other pink gins I have tried, though not to the extreme of the Sunset Hills pink. The sweetness of the Nikka balances the bitters well and creates a taste experience on the palate that is actually pretty good!
This trend continues on the finish, with it being a bit sharp to me, but not unpleasantly so. It grows a bit as you swallow, but again, not to the degree I experienced in other pink gins.
This is a fantastic gin, top to bottom. Just different enough with the Japanese citrus and peppers to distinguish itself in an ever-growing gin marketplace without losing itself in trying to be so different and cool. The flavors are excellent, and the Nikka and tonic is a cocktail to try. In all, I have no hesitation in awarding Nikka Coffey Gin a Top Shelf ranking.