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Japanese whisky producer Nikka launches two new expressions

Our latest round-up of trends from the top shelf, including the launch of two limited-edition bottlings from Nikka, an explanation of the term ‘navy strength’ and the recipe for a Sazerac cocktail.

Discover Japanese whisky

Top Japanese whisky producer Nikka has launched two new expressions. Part of its innovative Discovery series, the new limited-edition bottlings explore the effect of precise yeast strains on Nikka’s classic Yoichi and Miyagikyo single malts. Inspired by the flavours and aromas of sake, Yoichi Single Malt Aromatic Yeast (Alc 48%) is a more floral, aromatic take on the distinctive peated-yet-fruity Yoichi Single Malt. Garden flowers, citrus, melon and pineapple aromas, with injections of mint and Band Aids. The rich peated, earthy palate opens up into a more herbaceous character, with kiwi and barley sugar; spicy and salty finish, the subtle sweetness of white grapes balancing wafts of smoke. Miyagikyo Single Malt Aromatic Yeast (Alc 47%) is bright and lively. Like the original, it’s characterised by malted barley notes, but is more delicate with aromas of vanilla, lemon meringue, bananas and custard, peach and pear over woody spice. Lighter and brighter than the classic, with ginger, apricot pastries, digestive biscuits, white peach and white pepper. The long, lifted finish is herbal with meadow flowers and pears poached in ginger syrup. Only 4,800 bottles of each whisky have been released in Europe. Master of Malt, The Whisky Exchange, The Whisky Shop

What is… navy strength?

The term ‘navy strength’ is commonly used to describe spirits bottled at 57% abv and above. The expression derives from a test that used to be carried out by the British navy to check the alcohol content of rum rations on ships. Being stored near gunpowder, it needed a flammable level of alcohol – so that if the casks were damaged and leaked, the gunpowder would still be usable. A little rum was mixed with gunpowder and heated. If it ignited, the rum was dubbed ‘proof’; if it failed to ignite, the rum had been diluted. In 1816, Bartholomew Sikes invented a hydrometer to measure abv accurately. It calculated that 100% proof equated to 57% abv. While in 1866 the Royal Navy defined its ‘navy strength’ officially at 54.5%, today it’s the ‘English proof’ measure of 57% that has been adopted by many spirits companies to label their strongest spirits.

What to drink now?

The Sazerac is synonymous with New Orleans. While most agree it was invented at the Sazerac House saloon in the city’s French Quarter, there’s fierce debate about when and how it was made. It’s first mentioned in print in 1899 and was popularised by Vincent Miret and Billy Wilkinson, owners of Sazerac House, in the early 1900s.

A simple mix of rye, sugar and bitters, served in an absinthe-rinsed glass, the recipe is open to variation. Some use Peychaud’s and Angostura bitters, or add a dash of maraschino cherry liqueur. Try Sazerac Straight Rye, an iconic New Orleans rye whiskey (Alc 45% Amazon UK, Master of Malt, Ocado, Tesco, Waitrose Cellar).


Ingredients: 45ml rye whiskey, 7.5ml sugar syrup, 3 dashes Peychaud’s bitters, 5ml absinthe (to rinse)

Glass: Rocks

Garnish: None

Method: Fill a rocks glass with ice and let it chill. In a second glass, stir all ingredients with ice. Discard the ice in the first glass and pour in the absinthe, swirl around the glass then discard. Strain the second glass into the first and zest lemon peel over it.

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