Nikka Whisky: Challenging a myriad of flavours at a single sip
In recent years, Japanese whiskies are fast establishing a reputation among whisky appreciators in the country. Among some of the most recognised names is that of Nikka, the product of renowned whisky-maker, Masataka Taketsuru, who is also known as the Father of Japanese Whisky in his homeland.
In a recent ambitious food pairing dinner, we paired the Eastern influence of Nikka’s whiskies with a Western-style 5-course dinner to see how well the whisky would fare. Nikka’s diverse palate and notes that saw it matching the likes of smoked salmon, duck foie gras and pork belly brought to mind the admirable versatility of a good wine.
Hokkaido Sea Urchin, Shoyu Marinated Salmon Roe, Crispy Jamon Ham, Quail Yolk and Chopped Chives
Whisky Sours: Nikka Pure Malt Black, Fresh Lemons, Sugar and Aromatic Bitters
An easy raw appetiser eased us into the menu, with fresh salmon roe marinated in mild shoyu accompanying a small sliver of Hokkaido sea urchin. Paired with it was a refreshing tangy shooter with the Nikka Pure Malt Black at its heart. Well rounded in flavour with sharp tangy flavours, the shooter cut through the oily brine of the salmon roe efficiently so the sweetness of the sea urchin got to rise to the forefront. The sour notes of lemon also got saliva flowing in anticipation of the next course.
Pan-seared Duck Foie Gras Topped with Caramelised Peach in Taketsuru Jelly Served with Melba Toast
Pot of Gold: Nikka Taketsuru 12 Years, Amaro Montenegro, Kamahi Honey and Pineapple Flakes
Thick and fatty duck foie gras was next on the menu but worry not about it getting too cloying because its paired cocktail – a refreshing, tangy mix with the Nikka Taketsuru 12 years making up its body – kept things zesty and refreshing. The sourness of the pineapple cut through the fattiness of the foie gras without eliminating any of the liver’s precious pungent flavours. The sweetness from the Kamahi honey also lengthened the creaminess of the duck liver, lending it a nice musky aftertaste.
Chopped John Ross Jr Smoked Salmon Belly with Shaven Egg White and Light Aioli Served on Buckwheat Biscuit
Calm Waters: Nikka Coffey Grain Infused With Dry Vermouth and Grapefruit Oils
Generous cubes of smoked salmon came served on buckwheat biscuit next. The salmon was fresh to the bite, as illustrated by its springy texture and strong natural sweetness despite it being dressed in only a light drizzle of aioli. Its accompanying cocktail, a golden beauty standing tall and proud in a slim glass was a bold drink with a fruity opening and long tail, signature of its core whisky, the Nikka Coffey Grain. Almost perfumed on the nose, it went down the throat smooth before leaving the drinker with a nice radiating warmth that echoed its fruitiness.
Pan-seared Hokkaido Scallop Topped with Baked Cheddar Cheese, Scrambled Eggs and Italian Black Truffle Pate
Love in Darkness: Nikka Miyagikyo 12, Hibiscus Jam, Lemon Peels and Raspberry
A rich affair in terms of texture and flavour, this scallop dish was saved by its paired cocktail that cleverly balanced the best of sweet and sour. The scallop, while juicy and chewy, came close to being overwhelmed by the heavy brine of the cheddar cheese, scrambled eggs and black truffle pate combo. The raspberry and bitter lemon peels of the cocktail undressed the dish of the heavy flavours and pulled the scallop to the surface with the sweet, flowery scents of the Nikka Miyagikyo 12.
Deep-fried Mantou Bun with Slow-cooked Pork Belly in Teriyaki Miyakyo Stew
Café Old-Fashioned: Nikka Yoichi 12 Infused with Borghetti Coffee Liquer, Sugar and Orange Rind
The stew leaned dangerously close to the salty side of things, but the slow-cooked pork belly brought the team home with its marbly layers done to just the right tenderness. The Nikka Yoichi 12 tied all loose ends up with its deep, robust peatiness before trailing off to a subtle sweetness that bolstered the mantou buns, lending it a fragrant smoky aftertaste.
Nikka is available for purchase at Bricks & Barrel Hartamas.