Yes, that Nikka Coffey. From one of the biggest names in the world of Japanese whisky comes their Nikka Coffey Gin, distilled on the very same Coffey Still. Designed by Aeneas Coffey, imported to Japan by Nikka in the 1960s, the still has distilled some legendary whiskys.
Nikka Coffey Gin is a limited production of only 12,000 bottles.
A couple of production notes. Firstly, the base spirit is intended to be a star in this gin. It is a blend of barley and corn. Secondly, if you look at the botanical list for Nikka Coffey Gin you likely see a lot of unusual names. Of the novel Japanese botanicals— one is a kind of peppercorn. The others, the kabosu, the amanatsu, the hirami lemon— along with the yuzu, orange and lemon are all citrus fruits.
First pour reveals a distinctly citrus-forward aroma. Notes of Amalfi and Meyer lemon zests with a delicate menthol-kissed black pepper note.
On the palate, Nikka Coffey Gin tastes wildly unlike any other gin I’ve tried. Which I find amazing to say after having as many gins as I have. It has a sourness that is tart, yet not astringent whatsoever, and a really acerbic finish,
Lemon and orange build at first, suddenly peaking with a burst of lemon zest, and then shiso. Nikka Coffey Gin then abruptly takes a turn in the opposite direction. Lemon pith, bitter orange flesh and a touch of bitter tangerine all combine. Bold, zesty white and black peppercorn crunches and wormwood.
The finish is exceptionally long. It’s very bitter to me, reminiscent of biting directly into a hop. The citrus tinged bitterness gets very hoppy towards the end. Fans of beers will liken it to an IPA.
When I say the finish of Nikka Coffey Gin is exceptionally long— I mean it. We’re talking a nearly one minute journey when just sipped neat.
I mixed it with some Fentimans Tonic for my Gin and Tonic. The botanical notes of the tonic brightly lift the gin. The citrus and bitter comes through, but saying something I rarely say— The tonic water actually makes it less bitter. This was one of my favorite ways to drink Nikka Coffey Gin. This Gin and Tonic is not your usual beach sipper. It’s complex and surprising. I don’t think you’ll chug this one.
Another way I really liked this was in the Negroni. At the more traditional equal parts ratio, I thought the Campari complemented Nikka Coffey Gin perfectly, while the Vermouth added just enough sweetness.
The one application where I was less excited about Nikka Coffey Gin was the Martini. I found that the added wormwood from the Vermouth, combined with the notes of Vermouth, Mugwort and Hops from the gin was just too bitter. With the fortified wine, I got notes of radicchio and bitter chocolate, along with lots of hops.
Nikka Coffey Gin is unique. The bracing citrus bitterness is certainly not for everyone; but it can complicate your favorite cocktails. If you can’t get enough Amaro in your life, get Nikka Coffey Gin into your life.
Bartenders will find it to be a very difficult mixer. It tends to overpower other ingredients, and while careful cocktail craft can use that to wonderful effect— I wouldn’t be surprised if Nikka Coffey Gin is mostly limited to bespoke menu cocktails rather than a swap and pour gin behind the bar.
Fans of citrus-forward contemporary gins should tread carefully. This is not your usual citrus-forward gin. It’s something else altogether.
I recommend buying this gin because you want to sip it neat. It’s a really enjoyable gin that doesn’t taste like anything else on the market.