The Court: a whisky bar of antiquity and as far as
I know home to one of Kansai's largest collections of Nikka paraphernalia. The
establishment, which has all the trimmings of a typical old Scottish watering
hole is a Taketsuru ambassador and pays homage to the Nikka brand. Yoichi and
Miyagikyo connoisseurs will be spoilt for choice at The Court. Not only does
the bar offer an interesting selection of past and present bottlings of Nikka
for you to savor in nostalgic and yesteryear surroundings, the establishment
also have their own in-house mini Nikka museum one floor below the bar (a must
see - by appointment only). The floor to ceiling historical and chunky, but
petite bar counter also adorns an array of Nikka memorabilia, certainly an
environment you could spend a lot of time in over a dram or two. It's not often
you find a place with in modern Japan
of such description that you can confidently call a home away from home.
Whiskies R Us is happy to write the first English introduction on this hidden
gem and recommends all readers in Osaka
to pop in.
My time at The Court however was spent in the
adjacent room that equally transcends you back in time. Wooden floor boards,
white washed walls, lots more Nikka goodies, rustic interior, and a lovely old
fashioned cast iron oil heater that radiated warmth for the evenings tastings:
SMWS (Scotch Malt Whisky Society) Nikka bottlings. The gathering was certainly
nothing formal, which I quite liked. Basically a bunch of down to earth guys
and girls who share the enthusiasm of Japanese whisky and interest in the society
bottles, which were sourced by one of the attendees for the tasting. The
relaxed and casual evening was certainly appreciated as it gave unlimited time
to spend on each of the three Nikka expressions, perhaps a bit too much time as
my pen didn't make contact to paper as much as it should have as I was too
carried away with talking about other things - purely conversing about whisky
of course. My thoughts on the evenings single casks:
[124.3] Miyagikyo 13-years-old (1999) - ABV: 61.9 -
refill butt: Great balance, fresh and creamy malt. Right of the bat
pineapple life savers (pineapple lollies/candy) emerges on both the nose and
palate. A hint of tatami mats, white compound chocolate and Arnott's milk
coffee biscuits make their way to the surface. Fruit is certainly there: a home
made fruit salad with banana and whiffs of kiwi fruit. With the addition of
water the pineapple becomes extremely dominant but in an artificial form,
again, a very pleasant attack of pineapple candy. This Miyakigyo carried an
appreciative light body with some interesting hidden aromas and tastes: camembert cheese on the nose and a touch of dried kelp (Kombu).
[116.18] Yoichi 18-years-old (1994) - ABV: 64.4% -
refill butt: Lovely stuff and my nomination out of the three siblings.
On the nose sweet notes: old fashioned cologne and pipe tobacco automatically
emerge followed by a burst of melon soda with a dollop of ice cream (creaming
soda). Fruit is evident but not in a fresh form, banana yes, but in gum
tablets. Complex stuff involving melted butter and glazed milk chocolate
apricots. Water brings out pepper and whiffs of tyre smoke. The palate is bitter
and tingling and takes a few traits from the nose but fruit is much more representative
with mango tinges. This is handsome stuff.
[116.17] Yoichi 25-years-old (1987) - ABV: 59.2% - virgin oak butt: Possibly the best balance out of the three expressions,
but in my opinion it lacks in character in comparison to its siblings. There
were some lovely notes that came out of this but it was a hard malt to find any
distinctive personality. Perhaps it was a factor of being the third in but I
was hoping for a bit more. However, lovely homemade Japanese plum liqueur
(Umeshu) rolled of the surface along with cream confectionary. There is a touch
of glue on the nose: envelope glue, which transfers to the palate at a later
stage. With water a salty, rich, caramel soft candy shows its face intertwining
amongst some chamomile tea.
To conclude my favourite out of the three
expressions was the Yoichi 18-year-old. Although all three expressions were
beautiful in their own way the 18-yo won my vote on its expressive nose and
palate. Exciting times for enthusiasts of Japanese whisky, let's all look
forward to the flourish of new bottlings to come in 2013.
Shibakawa Bldg 101
3-3-3 Fushi-machi chuoku
(exit 11 - Yodoyabashi station - Midosuji line)
Update December 25: Cask detail information corrected.