In this review, I’ll take a close look at two of the quirkier whiskies offered by the renowned Japanese distillery, Nikka. Specifically, their Coffey Grain vs Malt bottles.
Maybe you’re curious about Japanese whisky or you’ve seen these bottles and wanted to know more. In this review, I’ll compare both expressions side-by-side to highlight their unique characteristics, as well as discuss how they’re made and why each one stands out from the other.
Hopefully, you should have a better understanding of these two delicious Japanese whiskies and be able to choose which one suits your taste best.
What is Coffey grain?
Whiskies such as the Nikka Coffey grain refer to the way the spirit was distilled using what’s called a Coffey still. Named after it’s inventor Aeneus Coffey, the Coffey still is also called a column, continuous or patent still.
Coffey stills are primarily used in the production of grain whisky. But interestingly, Nikka use it for both Grain and Malt, giving their whiskies a unique richness, depth, and smoothness. For the context of this article both their Coffey Grain and Coffey Malt whiskies are distilled using Coffey stills.
Is Nikka Coffey Malt a single malt?
While the Nikka Coffey whisky is made entirely with malted barley, it cannot be called a single malt. This is due to the fact it’s distilled in a Coffey still and not a traditional pot still. This is why it’s still technically a grain whisky despite its 100% malted barley content.
Nikka operates two distilleries in Japan—Yoichi and Miyagikyo. The Coffey Grain and Malt, though, are both produced in Miyagikyo. Located in the northern region of Sendai, the Miyagikyo distillery sits in a serene valley with rivers and mountains acting as natural barriers. You can’t help but think that the tranquillity of the location somehow finds its way into the whisky.
Is there peat involved?
No. These are not your peaty, smoky whiskies. They’re more subtle, and smooth, with just the slightest hint of a smoky note in the background, like a teasing whisper. They’re uniquely Japanese in character, representing the quiet elegance and precision that the country is known for.
Nikka Coffey Grain vs Malt: Quick-look Comparison
Nikka Coffey Grain Whisky Review
The Nikka Coffey Grain whisky is made from 95% corn and 5% malted barley. Having been distilled in a Coffey still, it’s bears close resemblance to American bourbon than any other subtype.
Straight out the bottle, there’s an unassuming complexity with this whisky. The Nikka Coffey Grain whisky could indeed be the maverick cousin of a quality bourbon with its signature sweet and slightly spicy profile.
On the nose, a heavy scent that lures you in. Whispers of tropical fruit, and a hint of citrus tickling your nose. It’s sweet, it’s inviting, and incredibly approachable. If you’re new to Japanese whisky, this is a nice and welcoming scent.
Let that first sip roll on your tongue and prepare for a flavour explosion – think exotic fruits, think vanilla, think a sprinkle of spice. And the finish? It’s a lingering, warm goodbye that leaves you wanting more.
The Nikka Coffey Grain offers a unique experience that adds a dash of excitement to your usual whisky adventures. It’s like stepping into an exotic vacation—you don’t know what to expect, but you’re thrilled at the prospect.
The sweet and fruity flavour is definitely a draw, especially if you lean towards smooth and flavourful whiskies. But, it might be a let down if you’re into the robust, smoky types. And while the natural pale colour might not scream indulgence like its honey-hued counterparts, don’t let the colour deceive you—the taste is a whole different ball game.
What sets it apart from its competition, say a Scotch or even a Bourbon? It’s the unexpected. It’s the adventurous approach Nikka took, using malted barley in a Coffey still—unconventional, daring, and absolutely rewarding in its results.
In terms of price Nikka Coffey Grain sits at €58 / $80. Definitely not your run-of-the-mill entry-level offering, but you needn’t hock your grandmother’s pearls either. What you get for the price is a premium quality whisky that definitely punches above its weight, delivering a unique experience that stands out in the crowded market.
And while there might be other whiskies that’re cheaper or have a more robust flavour profile, the Nikka Coffey Grain brings it’s own unique distillation method and character.
Nikka Coffey Malt Whisky Review
The Nikka Coffey Malt whisky is made from 100% malted barely and is distilled using the same Coffey style stills. The absence of any other grains (especially corn) makes it far more akin to Scotch than the bourbon-like character of the Coffey grain edition.
The closest experience I can relate to when introducing the Nikka Coffey Malt is the rich aroma of roasted nuts and warm, gooey chocolate. It’s warm, slightly nutty with just the right amount of sweetness to it.
Poured into your glass, you immediately notice the golden honey hue of the liquid, a promising introduction to the goodness that awaits you. It invites you in, enticing you to take that first sip. And when you do, you’re hit with a wave of rich, malty sweetness, a hint of citrus, and a touch of spice. Imagine sinking into a luxurious velvet couch, that’s how smooth and satisfying it is.
How does it stack up against other whiskies?
If you’ve had the pleasure of trying an Aberlour or a GlenDronach, you’ll find some similar notes in the Nikka Coffey Malt. The richness, the depth of flavours, will seem familiar, yet the Nikka Coffey Malt presents a unique Japanese touch that sets it apart.
Moreover, the romance of sipping on a Nikka Coffey Malt is akin to reading a riveting book by the fireside. It’s comfortingly familiar, yet every sip reveals another layer, another twist, keeping your taste buds engaged ’til the very last drop.
One of the biggest draws of the Nikka Coffey Malt is the rich, smooth, and slightly sweet flavour profile. But, this can be a double-edged sword.
Why? If you’re more inclined towards peaty, smoky whiskies, the Coffey Malt might be a little too sweet or indeed delicate. Another possible drawback could be the price. It’s not an everyday, low-shelf kind of whisky. It’s a bit of a splurge, an indulgence for those special occasions.
Price-wise, it’s nestled comfortably in the mid-range. Priced at £62 / $90, it’s not the cheapest on the shelf, but neither is it the most expensive. A bit more expensive compared to the Grain bottling though. What it offers, however, is an exceptional quality and taste experience that can give some of the high-end whiskies a run for their money.
If you’re in the mood for a sensory journey that’s warm, sweet, and utterly satisfying then the Nikka Coffey Malt is your go-to dram.
Plus, it’s always fun to add a Japanese wild-card to your whisky repertoire, right?
Comparing Nikka Coffey Grain vs Malt
Nikka Coffey Grain has a lush, tropical aroma. It’s like being handed a bouquet of sun-ripened fruits with an inviting sweetness that makes you yearn for a taste. The scent is bright and breezy, reminiscent of a fruit orchard under the summer sun. Nuances of mangoes, bananas, and a hint of coconut linger in the background, teasing your senses with promises of exotic delights. There’s an undeniably fresh, vibrant, and sun-kissed character to the Nikka Grain that’s sure to enchant.
Contrastngly, the Nikka Coffey Malt has a much broodier, rich aroma. Imagine being snuggled up by a crackling fire on a crisp autumn evening, with the comforting scent of freshly roasted nuts and cocoa wafting in the air. The nose is rich and decadent, interlaced with delicate threads of citrus, enough to keep the aromas intriguing and perfectly balanced. It’s a little like unwrapping a gourmet chocolate bar – each layer unfolds to reveal a new, enticing aroma.
As you take a sip of the Grain, its silky smoothness is what strikes you first. It’s like slipping into a bathtub filled with satin, a sensation that’s as decadent as it is comforting. This whisky dances gracefully on your palate, a ballet of smoothness and warmth that’s both inviting and comforting.
On the other hand, the Malt provides a fuller, more velvety mouthfeel. Imagine draping a plush cashmere blanket over your shoulders on a chilly evening. It’s satisfying, comforting, and undeniably indulgent, filling your mouth with its rich, warm textures.
The Grain serves a medley of tropical flavours on a silver platter. There’s a symphony of sweet fruits like ripe bananas and juicy mangoes, underscored by subtle vanilla notes. It’s sweet, it’s refreshing, and it wraps up with a playful hint of spice in the finish. It’s a joyful celebration of flavours, akin to a delightful tropical fest.
The Malt, meanwhile, is a cosy fireside chat distilled into a whisky. It presents a rich tapestry of flavours – there’s the warmth of toasted nuts, the sweetness of malt, a sprinkle of spice, and a dash of citrus to keep things interesting. The finish is long and satisfying, leaving behind a lingering sweetness that entices you for another sip.
Both the Grain and the Malt share a similar DNA when it comes to alcohol by volume. Bottled at 45% ABV, they both present an ideal balance between flavour intensity and smoothness. It’s high enough to deliver a full, rich flavour profile, yet smooth enough to keep the experience enjoyable and satisfying.
The Grain, priced at £58 / $80, comes across as a slightly more pocket-friendly option. But, when you consider the bouquet of flavours and the unique experience it offers, it’s truly worth every penny.
On the flip side, we have the Malt, standing tall at £62 / $90. It’s a bit of a splurge, sure, but the rich, indulgent flavours and the cosy, comforting experience it delivers make it a worthy purchase. Not bad for its price, I’d say.
When it comes to food, the Grain’s tropical and sweet profile would pair well with dishes that echo these flavours. Think of pairing it with a creamy coconut shrimp curry or a rich, creamy dessert like a mango cheesecake. The light, refreshing character of the Grain would balance out the richness of these dishes beautifully.
The Malt, with its richer and more complex flavour profile, could handle more robust dishes. Imagine pairing it with a seared ribeye steak with a side of caramelised onions, or a rich, dark chocolate torte. The whisky’s rich flavours would enhance the food, making for an unforgettable culinary experience.
Both are incredibly versatile. Enjoy them neat to truly appreciate their complex flavour profiles, or on the rocks for a more refreshing experience. For those who love experimenting with cocktails, the Grain, with its tropical character, would shine in a Whisky Sour, while the Malt could be the star ingredient in a classic Old Fashioned.
Whether you choose the Grain’s tropical paradise or the Malt’s cosy fireside, you’re in for an unforgettable treat. It all boils down to what kind of experience you’re seeking.
Nikka Coffey Grain vs Malt: Final Thoughts
If I’m being honest, this was a tough choice to make. Deciding between these two offerings is like choosing between a tropical island getaway and a cosy mountain retreat. Both promise experiences that are equally delightful yet vastly different.
I’ve put together a table below to help distil my thoughts on these two whiskies, using several selection criteria.
|Nikka Coffey Grain||Nikka Coffey Malt|
When I think about Nikka Coffey Grain, it’s a whisky that’s easy to like. The pale amber colour is pretty attractive, like honey that makes you want to dive in. When you take a whiff, you get a solid hit of tropical fruit and vanilla. But when it gets to the mouthfeel and the finish, it falls a bit flat.
In terms of taste, it’s okay—there’s a hint of citrus and spice, but it’s like the whisky equivalent of light beer, it could use a bit more oomph. The finish is quite smooth, no doubt. You get a bit of sweetness, a touch of spice, but it doesn’t really stick around. It’s like going to a party that wraps up just when you’re starting to have fun.
Then there’s the Nikka Coffey Malt. This one’s a bit more serious. The colour is deeper, more like a well-worn leather jacket than a sunshine-filled glass. The aroma’s more complex too—you get nuts, cocoa, and a bit of citrus.
When it hits your palate, it’s smoother, more satisfying. It’s got body and character, with a toasty, chocolaty vibe that warms you from the inside. The finish is pretty solid too. It lingers.
Don’t get me wrong, both whiskies are good, but if I had to pick, I lean more towards the Malt. It’s not that the Grain is bad or anything, it’s just that the Malt gives me more to ‘work with’.