Nikka Coffey Grain is a Japanese whisky produced by Nikka Whisky, one of the largest whisky makers in the country. The whisky is named ‘Coffey’ because it is distilled using the patented Coffey Still, a type of column still created by Aeneas Coffey.
The Nikka Coffey Grain is a uniquely made expression that has been very well-received by the international whisky community. There is another version of the Coffey still produced whisky by the company called the Nikka Coffey Malt whisky.
Masataka Taketsuru, a Japanese man born in a Sake-brewing family, established Nikka Whisky in 1934. Masataka enrolled as a student of organic chemistry at the University of Glasgow in Scotland in 1918 when he was a young man. After completing his studies, Masataka worked at two different distilleries in Scotland, gathering whisky distilling experience that he would take back with him to Japan.
He worked at the Longmorn Distillery learning how to distil malt whisky, at the Bo’ness Distillery learning how to distil grain whisky using the Coffey still and at the Hazelburn Distillery in Campbeltown learning whisky blending.
Having gathered enough knowledge about whisky distillation, Masataka returned to Japan but with a wife. Masataka had fallen in love with Jessie Roberta ‘Rita’ Cowan, and the two had married. Many consider Rita to have played a pivotal role in Masataka’s success in Japan.
After his return to Japan, Masataka worked with Shinjiro Torii, the founder of Kotobukiya to build Yamazaki, Japan’s first ever whisky distillery. Kotobukiya would go on to become Suntory, one of Japan’s largest alcoholic beverage conglomerates, and one of Nikka’s eventual rivals in the business.
After construction of the Yamazaki Distillery was completed in 1924, Masataka worked for Kotobukiya for another decade before embarking on his own journey. With the help of relentless support from his wife Rita, Masataka built his own distillery in 1934, naming it Yoichi. He recreated as much of what he learned in Scotland at the Yoichi Distillery.
Nikka Whisky was initially named Dai Nippon Kaju, and the company only adopted the name Nikka in 1952. Business was booming for Nikka, and Masataka was inspired to take things to the next level. He imported two Coffey still from Scotland, setting them up at the Nishinomiya. These stills are currently located at the Miyagikyo Distillery, where they were brought in 1999.
The Nikka Coffey Grain and Nikka Coffey Malt were launched in 2014, many years after Masataka passed away in 1979. The company was inherited, and expanded by Takeshi Taketsuru, Masataka and Rita’s adopted son.
Nikka Whisky is one of Japan’s most revered exports, and has done remarkably well both critically and commercially. Single malts, blends and grain whiskies are produced by the brand, in addition to Nikka brand of Gin and Vodka.
The Nikka Coffey Grain is produced at Nikka’s Miyagikyo Distillery, from a mash bill that is predominantly made up of corn with just a meagre amount of barley. The makers opted for the Coffey (column) still in order to retain the characteristics of the mash bill that are lost in some part with modern stills. The choice of corn is also peculiar, but does successfully produce a very interesting drink that doesn’t come by too often.
The whisky has been created using the same Coffey stills imported by Masataka Taketsuru from Scotland in 1963. These stills were shifted to the Miyagikyo Distillery in 1999, and have been there ever since.
The Nikka Coffey Grain whisky carries an alcohol content of 45% ABV, slightly higher than the standard permissible limit for Japanese whiskies.
Liquid Gold Award from Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible in 2018
Best Japanese Grain Whisky in 2013 at the World Whiskies Awards
Gold Medal at the International Spirits Challenge in 2013
Gold Medal at the International Spirits Challenge in 2015
Gold Medal at the International Spirits Challenge in 2016
Silver Medal at the International Spirits Challenge in 2014
Quite sweet. Vanilla, fresh herbs and tropical fruit aromas. Very pleasant.
The sweetness of the corn is present, and more freshly cut tropical fruit. Vanilla pods, sweet sugar and cinnamon flavoured syrup towards the end.
Medium finish, not very long. Sweet, ripe fruit finale.