When a Nikka Whisky taste-along screening of the original 1954 production of Godzilla was announced a pause for thought was definitely not necessary.
As a big fan of Nikka, their drams and the history behind their company I was overjoyed at the announcement. Pair that with a classic of the monster movie genre and the progenitor of the whole kaiju sub-genre of films and I think I could have only been happier if there was katsu bento and gyoza waiting for me in the lobby afterwards.
Full tasting notes are at the bottom of the article with scores out of 5 peppered throughout after each dram.
Tom and I met up with Rob and his mate Carl in The Victoria for a pre-tasting dram before heading over to The Electric.
We were greeted by Vicky and Amy from the Birmingham Whisky Club along with Vicky’s husband Dan.
After collecting our tickets from the box office, our bottled water from Vicky, picked up a first dram (under strict instructions not to drink them until instructed) we made our way to our seats.
Rob and Carl were in the La-Z-Boy’esque front row; Tom and I in the cheap seats directly behind.
The lineup was strategically placed on an organists bench on the stage.
Stef Holt, Brand Ambassador for Nikka Whisky, was our host for the night and after being introduced by Amy we were given a good run down of the history of the company.
I found it pretty fascinating and I love the story of how Masataka Taketsuru learnt his trade and honed his expertise at, as chance would have it, one of my favourite distilleries in Scotland, Longmorn.
The Nikka Whisky Company began life as ‘Dai Nippon Kaju K.K.’, or ‘The Great Japanese Juice Company’, in 1934.
After breaking away from Suntory to start his own distillery, at the urging of his Scottish wife Rita, Taketsuru realised that there would be a long profitless period while the spirit that had been laid down matured.
With this in mind he made the decision to produce apple juice to generate income until the whisky sales gained ground and became a viable sole focus. In 1950 whisky sales surpassed juice sales for the first time and the company changed its name to a portmanteau of Nippon and Kaju, giving us the Nikka we now know.
Just before the film began we were given a run-down on the dram we had before us: Nikka Coffey Grain.
Coffey Grain is different from most whiskies in 2 ways:
1. It is distilled purely from grain with no malt in sight.
2. It is distilled in a still called a Coffey still; a continuous still instead of the more commonplace pot still.
I’m a big fan of Coffey Grain (it’s unique buttery taste is right up my street), everyone else not so much.
Tom likened it to Bourbon and stated that in a blind tasting on the nose alone he would have thought it Bourbon.
For me, it’s something that, I admit, is a bit of a novelty, but it’s also something I would quite happily have every day… if it wasn’t £55 per bottle (at least it’s 70cl).
Rob B: 2.5
Rob W: 4
The film rolled and we sat back and watched as fishing boats started going missing off the coast of Odo island.
Just as Godzilla reared his sequinned-sock-puppet-like head above the mountains to roar and glare at the islanders and the research team we received our second dram.
Pure Malt Red.
I hadn’t tried any of the colour coded Pure Malt range before and was eager to try them.
Pure Malt Red is billed as being light and fruity but I didn’t really find it to be to my tastes. It’s flavours were a little too light for my liking and the ones that did show through weren’t particularly welcome.
I’m quite surprised I wasn’t keen on this one as from the notes found online I’d have thought this to be my favourite.
Rob B: 3.5
Rob W: 2.5
The film reconvened and we watched as government officials argued over whether to inform the public of the existence of a gigantic dinosaur-like radioactive monster from the deep.
Godzilla, or evidence of his presence, showed up briefly another once or twice as a romantic subplot involving the lead scientist’s daughter, a ship captain, and a one-eyed scientist started to unfold; wavering from Japanese stoicism to Anime-like over-acting.
As the threat loomed large in Tokyo bay the second intermission allowed the third drams to be brought round.
This time it was an old favourite, a whisky I’m developing a reputation for never going without an open bottle of – From The Barrel.
From The Barrel is a rich, cask strength blend of whisky from both/two(?) of Nikka’s distilleries, Yoichi and Miyagikyo.
Although already extremely familiar with FTB I initially felt that it didn’t quite come alive in the tasting setting.
Despite being 51.4% ABV I struggled to pick out any flavour to it after the Pure Malt Red.
After a few minutes and a few mouthfuls of water I tried again and there it was.
My palate was the issue, not the sublime blend in my glass.
To me FTB is most concisely summed up by two flavour notes: Oak and Cinder Toffee.
This one went down the best of the night so far across our small group.
Rob B: 3
Rob W: 4
We sipped our FTB as we watched Godzilla terrorize Tokyo; stomping through power-lines, toppling buildings and breathing his atomic fire all over the shop.
The team of scientists needed a plan so turned to the one-eyed scientist from earlier, Serizawa.
Apparently by accident, Serizawa had created a device/substance he named the “Oxygen Destroyer” that destroyed all of the oxygen in whatever water it was placed into, and effectively seemed to boil all living things down to skeletal remains.
When asked, Serizawa pitched a fit about using it, not wanting it to be used to destroy the world.
There’s a massive nuclear-fire-breathing dinosaur attacking the city but you take all the time you need pal!
We broke for the final intermission and received our final dram of the night, Pure Malt Black.
Again, until now I hadn’t tried any of the colour-coded Pure Malts and had been unimpressed with the Red.
Black was a different story entirely.
Wonderfully woody and smoky, it almost felt like a retail strength, much smokier version of FTB.
Rich, sweet, woody and smoky.
A fantastic dram I fully intend to pick up at some point.
Rob B: 3.5
Rob W: 4
We got back underway with the film in time to see “Operation Godzilla-killer” get into full swing with submariners, bubbling seas and even a heroic sacrifice to cap it all off nicely.
Finishing up with the line,
“I think there must be more Godzillas, this can’t be the only one.”
DUN DUN DUN!!!
A great classic film, with some admittedly laughable effects by modern standards, some clunky dialogue and a little too much of a nuclear disarmament agenda but a fun night’s viewing nevertheless.
For me the only let down was the Pure Malt Red. I couldn’t really wrap my palate around what they were trying to create with it; the fruit wasn’t vibrant enough and the oak wasn’t warm enough.
The Black was a great new experience and FTB and Coffey Grain (for me at least) were excellent as always.
I have every intention of picking up a bottle of Coffey Grain at some point in the coming weeks and a bottle of Black somewhere down the line.
While talking with Stef Holt after the film I mentioned the missing piece of the colour-coded Pure Malt trifecta, Pure Malt White. I learnt that it has actually now been discontinued and the stock that is out there now is all that is left. An investment opportunity if ever there was one (Rob B is no doubt spitting curses at me as he reads this ha).
Tom’s picked up a few bottles and I intend to do the same.
At the end of the night we had another dram in the lobby, mine being a rather large Coffey Grain from Vicky in exchange for my photos of the night (sorry for the delay) which we sipped while chatting with Dan and fellow attendees.
A great night, as always, from the Birmingham Whisky Club.
There’s plenty of sequels, remakes and spin-offs to be viewed and more drams to be experienced from Mr Taketsuru’s arsenal, so fingers crossed this isn’t the last we’ve seen of this Sakura season taste-along collaboration.
Rongu raifu no Nikka to Gojira!
Coffey Grain 45.00%
Toffee and vanilla notes are immediately apparent with hints of corn and butter.
Toffee and corn again with some butterscotch.
Notes of marshmallow and even bananas make a showing.
Possibly peanut butter too?
A long, sweet finish with a fudge-like flavour lasting throughout.
A fantastic dram.
A real show-stopper to me but definitely not to everyone’s tastes.
Pure Malt Red 43.00%
A lovely promising nose with red currants shining through and hints of fragrant spices, possibly aniseed.
A weak summer fruits like taste is just about discernible with cereal also presenting.
A short weak finish leaving nothing but a cereal taste.
A huge let down – weak and drying.
I’d like to try it again in another setting because I just can’t believe that Nikkas range could drop off so much.
From The Barrel 51.40%
Sweet on the nose with a slight smokiness rising up.
Cinnamon shows briefly along with hints of toffee and blossom honey.
A little oily on the palate with almost sherry like sweetness.
Cinder toffee and oak.
Smoke and plum notes are barely there but just about.
A long, sweet finish leaving sugar and oak to go on.
A big favourite of mine.
Reliable, unpretentious and easy to drink.
Warming and comfortable yet with a tiny exotic side to keep you interested.
Pure Malt Black 43.00%
Smoky, oily and slightly salty with oak notes presenting.
Saltiness dies away to leave you with the smoky oak notes from the nose.
Oily through and through.
A long soft finish with smoke and soft oak notes coming through from the palate and then dying away to leave sweet wood notes.
Very enjoyable and definitely one to look out for in the future.
Has hints of very lightly peated coastal Islay drams about it.