Stitch and Bear

A long-running Irish blog with reviews of the best restaurants in Dublin and throughout Ireland. Some wine and cocktails thrown in for good measure!

Saturday, January 5, 2013

[Event] Nikka Whisky Tasting and The Blind Pig

Life is full of great stories. In 1918, a Japanese man called Masataka Taketsuru travelled to Scotland. He came from a family with a history of sake brewing, but his mission in Scotland was to learn all he could about a different spirit, namely whisky. In 1920 he returned to Japan, eventually setting up Nikka Whisky in 1934 in Yoichi, Hokkaido. Masataka considered the Yoichi site to be the perfect whisky making site in Japan, as it bore a strong resemblance to his favourite locations in Scotland. A malt distillery, Yoichi produces robust, peaty malts. 

In 1969 Nikka established a second malt distillery at Miyagikyo in Honshu, which produces a lighter, softer malt when compared to Yoichi. Nikka (and Japanese whisky) has continued to flourish and in 2008, Nikka's 1987 Yoichi was named the World's Best Single Malt at the World Whiskies Award. Sales of Nikka whisky grew by an astounding 50% in Europe in 2011 alone. 

The Nikka distillery was recently showcased at a whisky tasting at the Blind Pig Speakeasy on a cold Monday night. The location of the Blind Pig is a secret. To find it, you arrive at the given location, conspiratorially ring the given number and ask to see the Blind Pig. From there, you will be led through some back alleys and downstairs to an underground location. In the interests of secrecy, I'll refrain from giving any more away!

A small group gathered round as we were lead through a tasting of 4 selected Nikka whiskies, covering a wide variety of tastes and price ranges. On a side note, I loved the delicate whisky nosing glasses which did a great job of funneling the aromas. Nikka whiskies come in some beautiful bottles, which look distinctly different to the more standard spirits bottles. These bottles and labels are beautiful in their own right. 
Nikka whisky tasting glasses

(1) Nikka All Malt (50%) is made with 100% malted barley, hence the name. Unusually, this whisky features malt whisky made in a Coffey or column still. It's got sweet notes on the nose and in the mouth with a not-very-long finish. I suspect that drinkers of Irish whiskey will quite like this All Malt. RRP c.€37

(2) Nikka Taketsuru 12 Year Old Pure Malt (40%) has a more robust character than the All Malt with a very long finish. It's similar to the All Malt in the sense that it has sweet notes and flavours but with a creamier mouthfeel. This would be my personal favourite from the tasting. RRP c.€52

(3) Nikka From The Barrel (51%) is a blend of malt (from Yoichi and Miyagikyo) and single grain whisky (from Miyagikyo). The blended whisky is then recasked to help the blending process. Finally, the whisky is bottled directly from the cask (hence the name). It's robust character means that it's well suited for the making of classic cocktails such as old-fashioneds. RRP c.€40

(4) Single Malt Yoichi 10 Year (45%) was our final treat on the night. It's quite peaty and full-bodied with a very long lasting finish. This level of peat is not to my personal taste, but is extremely well-regarded, winning Best Single Malt Whisky in 2008. RRP c.€72

Once the whisky tasting finished, The Blind Pig Speakeasy swung into action. The Bling Pig is the brainchild of Paul Lambert, a very talented mixologist (or cocktail-maker). The emphasis at the Blind Pig is on classic, proper cocktails, but make sure to read the "rules" on the back of the menu before you order. (Let's just say that daiquiri or pina colada orders won't be well-received). You just have to be prepared to like your drinks strong, but exquisitely made.
Spiced maple old-fashioned
Not sure what this was - I think it was a julep
I'll be honest and say that I don't really recall the exact cocktails we enjoyed on the night. It was before Christmas and I didn't take any pictures of the  menu to act as an aide memoire.  Several snifters of whisky, followed by cocktails will generally cause that. However, I do remember an excellent spiced maple Old-Fashioned and a sharp but fresh Rickey. The spiced maple old-fashioned got me to thinking about making a bacon flavoured old-fashioned. I mentioned this to Paul, but it was old news to him and me proceeded to take me through the necessary steps. This just emphasises how much Paul knows about making cocktails. (If you're interested, here's a similar method to that described.)

The Blind Pig is currently on a Christmas break, but will return in the New Year. There is another Nikka tasting planned, while a gin tasting is also on the cards. Make sure to follow the Blind Pig on Twitter or Facebook to stay informed. Paul also mixes at Kinara Kitchen in Ranelagh and Kinara in Clontarf, where he has trained some bar staff to his high standards.
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albina N muro said...
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