I love blended malts. And so does Nikka, it seems. While they rarely divulge their ingredients, almost never have age statements and are often soaked in caramel colourant, it’s hard to complain about something that combines creative blending and diversity with the malty goodness of single malts. Kanpai!
Nikka’s Pure Malt range of blended malts (simply called the Red, White and Black) are pretty special in terms of their components: The Red and Black consist of single malts from only two distilleries – the Nikka owned Miyagikyo and Yoichi – and the White shakes things up by throwing in some peaty Islay Scotch. Exotic!
While the Red errs on the side of Miyagikyo, in the case of Pure Malt Black we’re drinking a blend of mostly unpeated Yoichi whisky with a trickle of Miyagikyo for good measure. Let’s dive in!
Hmmm… sweet and fruity. Banana dominates, orange zest, apples. Surprisingly little alcohol bite on the nose. Slightly smoky – burnt matchsticks, and some mild spice – paprika, cinnamon. Nom nom nom!
Again, fruit first: plums, prunes and crispy apples. Some extremely light smoke (almost unnoticeable) and plenty of sweet stuff in there – candy floss, cherries, sherry. It’s all beautifully balanced – although not particularly complex. But that “weakness” on the nose carries through to the taste – I feel like this stuff needs to be bottled at a slightly higher ABV to really give it some oomph. 46% would be gold. The finish has a cherry sweetness and a particularly pleasant oiliness.
I tried Pure Malt Black in a couple of combinations, and prefer it without water. Although there’s an appealing development in flavours – fruitier, sweeter – watering down what already feels like a dangerously diluted whisky removed most of the complexity and interest.
Nikka Pure Malt Black is a really great little malt, certainly a must-try for anyone wanting to dip their toes into Japanese whiskey. That being said, I can’t shake the feeling like Nikka’s other entry-level blend – From the Barrel – simply has a lot more to offer. Bottled at a much higher strength, bursting with face-melting flavour, and significantly cheaper to boot. And speaking of which, the huge price for this little 500ml bottle of Pure Malt Black is pretty damn cheeky, to say the least. Give it a try, but if you’re going to buy – grab From the Barrel.