Age: No age statement
Nikka All Malt was released in 1990 and was a completely novel concept at the time. The spirit is indeed made using only malted barley, but some of it was put through a column still (also known as a Coffey still). The reason this had never been tried before is that in Scotland, anything distilled in a Coffey still would automatically be classified as a grain whisky. So why waste precious barley on a liquid that you couldn’t call malt anyway? Japan of course isn’t bound by Scottish rules, so Nikka decided to give it a try. All Malt was an instant hit in the home market and the fact it’s still available is a testament to its enduring popularity (and affordability). It’s safe to say All Malt has successfully pushed the envelope, even influencing subsequent Nikka bottlings. 25 years later, Nikka Coffey Malt has become popular the word over, using only malt distilled in a column still.
But back to All Malt. Of all the excellent whiskies in Nikka’s range, this is one of the most accessible – both in terms of taste and price. It’s unlikely to blow your mind (try Nikka from the Barrel for that), but All Malt is a nice teaser of what Nikka has to offer.
Nose: Fresh and floral, with aromas of blood orange and cherries drifting from the glass. A perfume of bubble gum and coconut gives this whisky a tropical vibe, while cinnamon provides a spicy twist. Really pleasant so far!
Palate: Soft-bodied and subdued, the fruit now appears in dried fashion, with candied apricots and marmalade. Notes of vanilla and brown sugar give way to oatcakes and soft, woody influences. On the whole, this Nikka is a little thin, almost too delicate.
Finish: Short and quite disappointing, with a half-hearted kick of white pepper.
Verdict: Nikka All Malt is immensely intriguing on the nose, but doesn’t quite deliver on that promise. As polite and well-mannered as you’d expect of a Japanese whisky, All Malt is actually a bit too understated. Missing the depth and enchantment of other Nikka bottlings, All Malt borders on boring. Having said that, it’s still a better introduction to the range than the recently released Nikka Days, and very affordable for a Japanese malt whisky.
Value for money: 🤩🤩🤩🤩