Nikka Whisky From The Barrel

If you’re going to take this writing thing seriously you need a serious tipple. And whilst one can observe brandy discretely being passed around certain convention bars, or note the demands for real ale, I believe whisky is where UK SF and Fantasy is currently at. Famously there is Iain Banks. My editor Julie Crisp loves it; word is Joe Abercrombie likes a drop of it; and even China Miéville enjoys a single malt now and then.

Clearly, if you really want to become a fantasy writer of any quality, you must first select which whisky to drink.

I’m becoming rather fascinated by Japanese whisky. It was only this year that I discovered what I believe to be my favourite poison (from a recommendation in a glorious little underground shop in Nottingham), and it is Nikka Whisky From The Barrel. Here’s what Nikka say:

Matured malt whisky and grain whisky are blended and then re-casked (a process known as “marriage”) to create a rich harmony of distinctly different whiskies. “From the Barrel” is bottled directly from re-casked barrels of whisky and features almost the same alcohol percentage. At 51.4% alcohol content, this whisky possesses a distinctive personality characterized by solidity, depth of taste and a richly expanding aroma.

This is a gem, so much so that I’m reluctant to share it with you all. The alcohol content clocks in at a mighty 51.4%, but you won’t notice that – it contains notes of caramel and spices; it’s a touch woody, with wafts of orange and vanilla, and it slips down a treat. This is absolutely delicious and seriously good value for money (thought the bottles are small, 50cl, it’s only about £30).

Nikka constantly win awards on the global whisky circuit and, though I’m by no means a professional connoisseur (I can have pretensions to being one), all you need to know is that they are very good at making whisky. However, I can’t put it better than these dashing chaps:

(Anyone fluent in Japanese have a clue what they’re saying?)

By Mark Newton

Born in 1981, live in the UK. I write about strange things.

28 replies on “Nikka Whisky From The Barrel”

Watching that advert I’m reminded of Lost in Translation…For relaxing times, make it Suntory time!

I’m not an expert, but I’m told Glenkinchie is a nice drop and some of their older ones are apparently incredible. Guess it depends on how big your wallet is! 🙂

More a bourbon man personally, albeit Sainsbury’s Bourbon usually.

Am partial to a wee dram of Talisker, Glenfiddich and Monkey Shoulder too though.

While I love Islay malts – the smokey richness, the aggressive peatiness of the long finish – Japanese malts can be unexpectedly good.

Unexpectedly is perhaps the wrong word to use as the Japanese love their whisky and approach the making of it as a very serious enterprise.

I also love the slight Takeshi Korvacs moment (though I no recollection of him drinking whisky) of having a glass (or bottle) of golden liquid from Japan on one’s desk. Along with overtones of the writer, whisky always conjures up the private detective of film and literary noir for me.

If you like Nikka FTB, you might enjoy either JW Gold 18 year old blended – the richer, sweeter, and much pricer cousin to JW Black, or a Christmas favourite of mine, Aberlour A’bunadh. The latter is a single malt but has some of the richness and smooth texture of a good blend – and at cask strength, can be a lovely postprandial dram. It has strong sherry cask influences – making it a rich treat for when the nights are cold and long. Not all bottling of it are equal, but you can find it going on offer frequently at Waitrose for around twenty something quid – or pick it up at Oddbins or from a number of malt specialists across the land.

Also, it’s worth seeking out a bottle of Clynelish (14 year old is the most readily available) if you haven’t had it before. I love this stuff, not as smokey and iodine rich as the majority of the big Islay malts but possessed of a rugged, wind-swept character, with hints of gorse and the sea. An excellent one to drink from a flask while you hike along a pebble covered shingle in less than ideal weather.



HAVE. Oh bother. That’s what I get writing about whisky before I’ve even poured the tea.

Another couple of top drams in my books are: Ardbeg Corryvreckan, Nikka Taketsuru 21 year old, and Highland Park 18 year old.



I’ve heard good things about the Japanese whiskeys. Might need to give it a go. The Caol Ila is good. As is the Dalwhinnie and the Oban but my absolutle favourites are Ardbeg (even named my cat after it) and Scapa.
As a warning though, whiskey and writing may go hand in hand as long as there’s not too much of one and too little of the other! Who knows what either Mark or Joe’s characters would get up to on a Highland Park fueled writing session! 🙂

Thanks for all the recommendations. It’s interesting seeing which people prefer. I’m also a fan of many of the Islay malts – Ardbeg especially (though my girlfriend won’t go near me when I drink it because my mouth smells like that of a dragon).

Julie – how do you know that I’ve not been intoxicated while writing that manuscript on your desk?

And I knew I was onto something about SFF writers and whisky. Knew it.

“How have you been recently? Are you drinking it?”

“Of course I am! *”

“Me too!”

Voice-over: The reason to choose this is because it’s easy to drink

Both together: “I love/have fallen in love with the flavour!”

*he says something at the end of this sentence that ends in -yatsu, a form of informal, almost derogatory address. I just can’t make it out.

The slogan doesn’t explicitly state the taste is the reason to drink it, but implies that it’s easy to drink (and people would understand that it was because of the tastiness).

Love the translation, and all the more for its likely imperfection*/uncertainty over the ending address.

*As Sam might say, perhaps it’s the Japanese equivalent of “shut up and let’s drink it, bro!”

Ah, good times. Makes me want a drink…


Ah fudge, I seem, then, to be buggered. I can drink whiskey (could probably finish a bottle on my own at a good-enough, long-enough party) but the thing is – I want to kill myself the next day; not because of any ‘dronk-verdriet’ Afrikaans for (to put it simply) getting yourself so drunk you become sad for no explainable reason. Brandy I can do – no headache, no hangover, and have already finished an entire bottle on occassion.

I guess I’ll have to do two things: get you to teach me how to enjoy a good whiskey when I (count on it) come to the UK for a book tour, and carry on drinking brandy until then and get published and give you some more competition while I’m at it. 😉

Btw bloody wonderful description of the Nikka whiskey! 🙂

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