When Masataka Taketsuru went searching for the location of the second Nikka distillery his adoptive son Takeshi took him to a potential site near the city of Sendai in Miyagi prefecture. Arriving in the foggy glen-like location he made himself a mizuwari using Black Nikka blended whisky and the water from the location's river - the Nikkawa (Nikka River). He loved the taste of the water with his whisky and found the name of the river to be beyond coincidence. The scouting party didn't visit any more potential sites. Sendai distillery was built on this location.
Sendai was renamed to Miyagikyo in 2001 and has grown substantially since its founding in 1969 - Nikka's grain distillery ' Nishinomiya' had been closed and demolished and a fair amount of equipment had found its way to Miyagikyo, where the Coffey Stills have operated ever since – processing both grains and malts.
Nikka's core range of Miyagikyo expressions was well established by 2008 with 10, 12 and 15 year olds all available. However, following the huge growth in demand for Japanese whisky, Nikka took a rather scorched earth policy with their whiskies and in 2015 discontinued all aged expressions. Whilst two (Yoichi Heavily Peated and Miyagikyo Sherry Cask) limited-edition bottlings were made at this point, they completely sold out on impact. The replacements for all seven core Yoichi and Miyagikyo bottlings are both NAS bottlings and will be the only single malts available from both distilleries until the supply of aged stocks improves.
Today, we'll take a look at the Miyagikyo 12 year old. This whisky was pretty much single-handedly responsible for piquing my interest in Japanese whisky, so whilst it's not available as of writing, as a marker for the significance this bottle has on my whisky journey I'm going to do some tasting notes regardless!
Nose: A thick dollop of orange marmalade alongside a veritable orchard of ripe apples and pears. Fruity stuff indeed. Backup comes in the form of honey, toffee and a discernible polish note. Wispy fluttering of ginger and aromatic blossom around the edges.
Taste: Honey and malts come first but are quickly followed by orange (now in candied peel variety) and apple (more of a dried type). Sherry notes now strongly apparent with sultanas and a plentiful array of wood spicing such as pepper and cardamom. Ginger present again, and what feels like ever such a mild lick of smoke or char enveloping the whole affair.
Finish: Medium-long with a pleasant level of astringency.
A real totem whisky in terms of balance. Everything feels exactly as it should - which leads some commentators to posit that perhaps its 'just a bit too well put together'. Fruits and underlying sweetness are the order of the day here, but to me, this still feels very Japanese in its outlook.
Of course, still available at an online auction house near you, but at prices which belie the overall quality of the whisky - Its certainly good but nowhere near *that* good.