Thursday, April 3, 2014

Whisky Review: Miyagikyo 15 Year

Miyagikyo is the second distillery for the Nikka brewing conglomerate, built in 1969. It is located in the northern half of the Honshu (the main Japanese island), in the forested area around Sendai. Unlike most distilleries in Scotland, it can produce both pot-still malt whisky as well as Coffey still malt and grain whiskies at the same facility.

The pot stills at Miyagikyo were built to produce a lighter style of malt whisky, utilizing steam coils to heat the wort and tall stills with rising lyne arms and a bulging ring right above the pot to increase reflux.

This whisky is bottled at 45% - no idea whether it's chill filtered or colored.

Thanks to Ian of PDXWhisky for this sample.

Miyagikyo 15 Year

Nose: strong berry notes (raspberry especially) on top, savory malt underneath, toffee, cacao/dark chocolate, sherry influence, light vanilla, tropical fruits, not a lot of oak. After adding a few drops of water, it becomes more malt-focused, the sherry retreats, it becomes drier overall, and some cinnamon, nutmeg, and floral apple brandy notes pop out.

Taste: sharp acidity right up front, quickly becoming sweet malt and sherry, fading into Japanese-style malt (there's a certain vegetal sourness to it) and well-integrated oak tannins. After dilution, the acidity and sweetness become more integrated, the flavors become less distinct overall, the oak comes in sooner, there is more malt at the back and floral overtones through out, the sherry is present but less assertive, and some baking spices (cinnamon and nutmeg) come out at the back.

Finish: oak tannins, mild sherry and malt, alcohol heat

This is a really nice sherried whisky. I enjoy that it manages to be sherried without overwhelming the malt and also leans towards the savory end of the sherry spectrum, rather than overbearing sweetness. While the bottling strength isn't too high, it's enough to give this whisky plenty of presence. I also liked how well it took water, which seemed to decrease the influence of the sherry while increasing the influence of the malt and oak.

The only problem is that, these days, it comes at a price. Even the younger 12 Year is usually $100 in the States and the 15 Year is anywhere from $120-150. If you can even find it. Japanese whiskies are in demand right now and anything available outside of Japan proper exists only because the distillers are intentionally pulling stock from Japan for the rest of the world.


  1. As of today there are 47 bottles of this in Ontario - spread across 19 different stores in 12 different towns / you said, not much to go around, and at $189.20 CAD, it is expensive stuff...but very, very nice. We did a mini-Nikka vertical with the Taketsuru 12, Miyagikyo 15, and Yoichi 10 back in December, and this was by far the best of the three (although the other two are very good in their own right, and it was very interesting to see how the Taketsuru is really the sum of the other two).

  2. I've seen it here in NY - but in the glass cases. It's a rarity and I'm on the fence about it. I enjoyed Yoichi 15, but found I enjoyed the Yoichi 20 much more - even though it requires a shipment from overseas. There's no comparable option for Miyagikyo (there were 20 and 25 OBs are not at the moment, apparently. There are also some single cask offerings that disappear instantly). My curiosity is driven hard against my sense of the value equation.