My undiluted vignettes tend to focus on trailblazers who played an important role in shaping the whisky world of today. In 1830, Aeneas Coffey arguably patented the most important invention in distilling history, the Coffey still. It required little labour, and made a light, cost-effective spirit. It was loved by some, hated by others.
Aeneas Coffey was an Irishman who spent a good chunk of his life working as a distillery tax collector. He was dedicated and incorruptible. He once suffered a fractured skull and stab wounds while trying to close an illegal distillery. Shortly after retiring, he decided to run a distillery of all things, and focused his efforts on how to make distilling as efficient as possible. When Coffey started pitching his idea for a still, Irish distillers passed, even though they knew it’d probably end up saving them money. They feared it would strip away character.
Despite being shown the door in Ireland, Coffey’s still was a hit in Scotland. It was used to distill a variety of things like whisky, gin, even knock-off Cognac. Irish single pot distillers, worried their juice would get lumped in with the second-rate stuff coming from Scotland, decided to add an “e” to their whisk(e)y in protest. As fate would have it, Coffey’s invention is now used everywhere, whereas Irish single pot still whiskey has pretty much gone extinct. Redbreast and the Spot whiskies are among the few that remain.
Japanese whisky has been a hot mess for a while now. They just can’t keep up with demand. Many companies use whisky from other countries to fill their blends. A couple years ago, a series of standards were put in place by the Japan Spirits & Liqueur Makers Association in an attempt to clean up the industry. Just one problem. Unlike the US and Scotland, where whisk(e)y practices are bound by law, the new Japanese standards are voluntary, so it’s pretty much been business as usual. Nikka may not entirely play by the rules, but at least they’re honest about it.
Nikka Coffey Malt was launched in 2013, and is made by putting malted barley from Nikka’s Miyagikyo distillery through a Coffey still. If you go to the Nikka website, you’ll see the following:
This product does not meet all the criteria of “Japanese whisky” defined by the Japan Spirits & Liqueur Makers Association.
Ben Nevis, a single malt from Scotland, is among the whiskies used to make this product. Ben Nevis is owned by Nikka. I guess you could say this whisky is made using only Japanese-owned distilleries. Coffey Malt is an easy-going, approachable whisky that can be enjoyed by drinkers of all experience levels. Caramel, vanilla, cinnamon, fruit. Malty too. Love the twist cap.