Age: No age statement
Super Nikka was launched as far back as 1962, during a decade of great optimism in the Japanese whisky industry. Nevertheless, these were sad times for Nikka founder Masataka Taketsuru, whose Scottish wife Rita had passed away the previous year. As a way of dealing with his grief, he poured all his energy into creating a new blend, which he would title Super Nikka. To honour his late wife, he meant for it to be something special. Super Nikka was the company’s most expensive product to date, retailing at ¥3000 per bottle, at a time when a college graduate could expect to earn around ¥18000 a month. The glass bottles were hand blown, each fitted with a glass stopper to add an extra touch of class. The bottle alone reportedly cost ¥500 to make, an extravagance given that many whiskies were retailing for less. As mentioned though, this was a time when whisky was booming in Japan and consumers sure were interested. Around 1000 bottles of Super Nikka were produced each year. All of them sold.
These days of course, those volumes are very different, as is the bottle in which Super Nikka is sold. The liquid is more or less the same as half a century ago though. About this Nikka’s contents little is known, other than that it’s reportedly Super, Rare and Old. This immediately set my alarm bells ringing. Because let’s face it… nothing that bears the label Rare and Old is ever old, and most definitely not rare. But all of that’s beside the point. The only question that matters is: how Super is this Nikka really? Let’s find out!
Nose: Super Nikka starts off as a nice summery dram, but that doesn’t mean it’s delicate. This Nikka bears its floral aromas with confidence, offering up a perfume of honeydew melons, nectar and tangerines. There are subtle undercurrents of caramel, peanuts and wood spice as well. This seems quite a lively, vibrant dram!
Palate: Unexpectedly pungent, but oh so sweet. Shortbread, toffee and heather honey dominate the scene. Once the initial sugar rush settles down, it’s replaced by… not much at all. Hmm, wait for it… perhaps some smoke and maybe a vague hint of sherry? Unfortunately this Nikka doesn’t quite pick up the pace after a promising start.
Finish: It seems the flavours simply arrived at the finish before we did. At last oak, spice and smoke are allowed to roam free, resulting in a finish that’s not exactly scintillating, but quite pleasant nonetheless.
Verdict: Well, that last line pretty much sums it up. Super Nikka is an accessible, enjoyable dram that never really excels, but doesn’t disappoint either. That makes this dram a typical entry-level Nikka, and the reason it has stuck around since 1962, an impressively long time! And although Super Nikka has exceeded my (admittedly low) expectations, I would like to point out that if you’re going to spend even a modest amount of money on Japanese whisky, there are better alternatives out there. Some of those even come from the Nikka range, think for example Coffey Malt or the excellent From the Barrel. Does that mean Super Nikka is not worth drinking? Not at all, be sure to give this piece of Japanese whisky history a try!