The Nikka Yoichi Single Malt (No Age Statement) nose opens with a light high note, like the arioso melody made by a jazz flautist wooing a romantically-inclined barista living on the third floor of a brownstone walk-up. Oranges, burnt marshmallows on Toblerone and grass-crackers burst out of the flute. The barista hits himself on the head with a breakable chocolate orange, which segments into tiny skewers of Lucky Charms/Swiss Miss marshmallows—more marshmallows!—roasted over a tiny campfire made from ebony toothpicks that were turned on a lathe at the Louisville Slugger Factory for the Mast Brothers. (You guys got that too, right? Guys?)
The mouth is hot and smoky, like a bundle of lit bamboo shoots colonizing my palate. It’s reedy, double-reedy: the flautist has been joined by an English horn player and an oboist. The three have moved onto experimental avante garde sounds, and the barista ecstatically pours coffee (iced) with lots of cream (warm, fresh from the cow living in the bathroom) on their heads. It’s like a Rolo re-engineered as a cookie, a holiday confection permanently dunked into a cup of coffee until the two become as one.
The finish continues to bring the caramel, along with peppermint stix (yes, that’s “sticks” with an “x”; deal with it). There’s also a roomful of 8-12 year olds given EZ Bake ovens, all the required ingredients, and a French pastry cookbook. It is a glorious chaos resplendent with hyperactive exuberance. The barista grabs his ukelele, joins the flautist, English hornist, and oboist, and the four of them unleash a quartet unimagined even by the likes of Bela Bartok. Astonishingly, the young bakers love it.
–Our thanks to Nikka and Anchor Distilling for the sample!