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Nikka sheds light on gin and vodka production

Japanese whisky brand Nikka has revealed further details about the innovative production techniques behind its new Nikka Coffey Gin and Nikka Coffey Vodka expressions.

Last month, Nikka’s owner Asahi Group added the two new expressions to its Coffey range of products, which include the Nikka Coffey Grain and Nikka Coffey Malt Japanese whiskies.

The continuous-style Coffey stills were developed by Ireland’s Aeneas Coffey in 1831 and examples were imported to Japan by Nikka Whisky Distilling Company founder Masataka Taketsuru in 1963.

Nikka’s current Coffey still was installed at its Miyagikyo Distillery in 1999. Asahi previously created vodka and gin under license for the Japanese market, but this operation ceased in 1995.

Speaking to The Spirits Business in London earlier this month, Emiko Kaji, international business development manager for Nikka Whisky, said Nikka created the first prototype for its white spirits using the Coffey Grain distillate in 2014. The company has been refining the products over the last three years.

“It’s all about taste and flavour – our Coffey distillate is our biggest asset,” said Kaji.

Nikka Coffey Gin and Nikka Coffey Vodka are created from different base spirits. According to Kaji, these spirit bases are blended in a similar way to whisky.

Nikka Coffey Vodka is created using a mix of malted barley and corn, which are distilled separately in the Coffey still before blending, dilution, and filtration using birch charcoal.

Nikka Coffey Gin is produced with 11 botanicals, including yuzu, sansho pepper, kabosu, amanatsu, and shequasar from Japan. Other botanicals include juniper, angelica, coriander, lemon peel, orange peel, and apple juice.

Similar to the vodka, the gin also uses two base spirits distilled from malted barley and corn in the Coffey still. The base spirits are then blended and used to steep three batches of botanicals, grouped into peppery flavours, citrus flavours, and more traditional flavours such as juniper.

The steeped spirits are then redistilled separately in three different types of pot stills. The resulting spirits are then blended together, along with additional malted barley and corn Coffey still distillate.

Nikka Coffey Gin is bottled at 47% abv, while Nikka Coffey Vodka has an abv of 40%. Both products are now available in Japan and will roll out to Europe and the US in September this year.

For a more in-depth analysis of the Japanese gin market, see the Big Story, published in the August 2017 edition of The Spirits Business magazine – out soon.

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