Nikka’s Discovery series, which launched last year, was a fun way to explore unexpected flavors from the Japanese icon’s two distilleries. While the 2021 expressions focused on the use of peat (or lack thereof), this year’s takes a deep dive into one of the unsung heroes of distillation: yeast. The two whiskies in this year’s collection are made using yeast from Nikka’s vast “culture collection.” These were initially tasted alongside three additional experiments from each distillery, each made using a different type of yeast. The results were really intriguing, but rather than bore you with notes about whiskies that weren’t and will never be on the market, we’re going to dive fully into the full releases of Nikka’s “Aromatic Yeast” bottlings.
Thoughts follow on the power of yeast!
Nikka Discovery Yoichi Single Malt Aromatic Yeast 2022 – Made with a yeast that is intended to evoke notes of ginjo style sake, aged in a variety of cask types. Quite mild on the nose, the whisky doesn’t stretch too far from Yoichi’s lightly peated roots as it perks up classic notes of coal fires and mushroom — and, yes, perhaps just a hint of melon-laced sake character. The lattermost is more pronounced on the palate, where the smoke all but vanishes and sweeter notes of fresh honeydew, banana, and bubblegum dominate. Refreshing and lightly sweet, ester-driven flavors are the target of the game here, and I can comfortably say that Nikka successfully delivered on that goal. 96 proof. A-
Nikka Discovery Miyagikyo Single Malt Aromatic Yeast 2022 – Designed to be fruity, specifically evoking peaches, again Nikka succeeds with aplomb. It smells like peaches. It tastes like peaches. There’s a touch of more generalized sweetness — again, akin to bubblegum — but by and large this has a candylike character that tastes just like gummy peach rings pulled straight from the bulk bin. Secondary flavors of vanilla and lemon curd are there, but they’re almost not worth mentioning. If you’re into peaches, well, have I got a whisky for you. 94 proof. A-
each $275 / nikka.com