We’ve reviewed a number of Nikka’s whiskies to date, but are just now coming around to their gin, which they introduced in 2017. As with the Japanese distillery’s Coffey Malt and Coffey Grain whiskies, the Coffey Gin draws its name from the Coffey (column) still used instead of a pot still. Nikka’s gin is different from other gins in its approach toward the use of grains to impart character to the final product. Most gins are made with a “neutral” distillate (often made from wheat) which has been distilled to the point that it provides a blank palate for the botanicals that are infused to provide the gin’s flavor. Nikka uses corn for the gentle sweetness it can impart and barley for the cereal notes it sometimes introduces. Nikka gin is made with eleven botanicals, many which are uncommon for gin but make sense considering the Japanese origin of the product. As their website notes:
The bright and zesty aroma originating from four kinds of Japanese citruses, Yuzu, Kabosu, Amanatsu and Shequasar, compliments the traditional gin botanicals of juniper berries, angelica, coriander seeds, lemon and orange peels. There is also a touch of apples, a fruit deeply related to the history of Nikka, followed by pleasantly tangy hints of green Japanese Sansho pepper on the finish.
Let’s give it a try.
On the nose, Nikka Coffey Gin offers bold notes of orangey citrus and lemon rind. Some pine and pepper follow. The palate follows suit but is much more complex: There’s a lot going on here. The citrus and lemon peel notes hit first and mix with a lovely, oily mouthfeel that carries both a spike of pepper and a touch of sweetness. Then the gin takes an herbal turn, perhaps from the Japanese pepper, and the finish introduces a slight menthol note that is quite lengthy before slowly fading.
The individual flavors of Nikka Coffey Gin are really distinctive but come together beautifully into an integrated whole. That said, I don’t think this gin is for everyone, and it certainly won’t appeal to someone looking for a simple London dry gin to pair with tonic. Nikka works with tonic, but the result is more a complex cocktail that showcases citrus, herbal notes, and a strong bitter character than a summer sipper. For me, Nikka Coffey Gin is best served neat or with an ice cube. For adventurous gin fans, this is one to seek out.