Nikka Coffey Gin

By Eric Schmalz - July 10, 2019

Chances are, most readers of this blog know about Japanese whiskey. The golden liquid that took the world by storm has left us in a drought, causing companies to cut back age statements, blending components, and some even sourcing from places unknown. The category of Japanese whiskey has turned into a rocky battlefield where distillers struggle to stave off the droves of folks who want their product. 

But what about Japanese gin?

While gin was initially created by the Dutch (then known as Genever) as early as the 13th century and later adopted and popularized by the British in the 18th century, gin, as it's known today, has long been a staple drink world wide. 

But only within the last couple years has the phenomenon been brought to the land of the rising sun. Personally, I believe that this is an attempt to bring product on the market utilizing botanicals and herbs that can be found nowhere else in the world, while also providing some income for distilleries that have been hit hard by the whiskey boom.

Regardless of the reason, being at the foundation of a category of spirit is an exciting time, and should be followed closely. 

Today we look at Nikka Coffey Gin, coming from the Nikka Distillery, best known for Yoichi and Miyagikyo Single Malts as well as the Coffey Grain and Coffey Malt Whiskies. I’ve long been a fan of both the Yoichi and Miyagikyo releases, so when I heard they were releasing a gin, I was very intrigued, and now that I was finally able to taste it, I can say I am thoroughly blown away.

Before we dive in I wanted to point out that the term Coffey refers to the type of still they use for distilation, a column still, invented by Aeneas Coffey.

Nikka Coffey Gin (image via Ray's Wine and Spirits)

This gin is created with a distinctive blend of eleven botanicals. Japanese citrus fruits of yuzu, kabosu, amanatsu and shequasar compliment the traditional gin botanicals of juniper berries, angelica, coriander seeds, lemon and orange peels, with a touch of apples and hints of green Japanese Sansho pepper on the finish. Bottled at a respectable 47% ABV.

Initially on the nose, bright, crisp citrus flavors jump out of the glass with lemon, lime and orange oils. Beyond this is an herbal quality, mostly pine and fennel. There is some amount of hot spice, think peppers and chili oil, not baking spices, along with fresh cracked peppercorns.

On the palate, citrus shows right away with orange, lemon zest and a lime juice coolness. There is a sweetness for a moment before going a touch bitter from the likes of citrus zest and rind. There is spice towards the end again with cracked peppercorns, along with pine and a wormwood-esque bite. 

The finish is quite long. Some residual sweetness but not much. Bitterness holds onto the tongue for quite a while. The wood and spice reminds me of an IPA finish; a hoppy character. There is also a menthol like mint feel, keeping the mouth cool and seemingly preventing astringency.

While this is only one of about three or four Japanese gins that are on the market, I'm excited to see where the category goes. Certainly the unique botanicals the island can provide are already giving us something special and showing a bright start. I highly recommend giving this a try neat. It's a wonderfully light offering to those who are new to gins in general, and if you like cocktails this will provide a very interesting profile to implement.

Overall: 8/10 Excellent


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