Nikka Taketsuru 21, Pure Malt

Nikka Taketsuru Pure Malt 21The Taketsuru “pure malts” from Nikka are, I believe, blended/vatted malt whiskies (i.e. no grain whisky in the mix) from some combination of Nikka’s malt distilleries. I’m not sure what the profiles or proportions of the components (presumably from Yoichi and Miyagikyou) are in any of them. This 21 yo is a much lauded whisky and recently arrived in the US (albeit at a rather steep price) and so I’m quite excited to be trying it.

Nikka Taketsuru 21 “Pure Malt” (43%; from a sample received in a swap)

Nose: Clear sherry influence–dark raisins, plum liqueur, maple syrup. Polished wood and oak spice too. With time a touch of soy sauce and a mild leatheriness. Gets more citrussy with time (dried tangerine peel). Very elegant. With a few drops of water the citrus expands, there’s more brine too, and also a faint, leathery lick of dry smoke.

Palate: Sweet at first and then a little rush of citrus and wild honey. Lots of oak too but not particularly tannic: mostly, a nice bitter and spicy counterpoint to the sweeter and fruitier notes. Despite the bracing oak, and a slightly higher than expected burn at 43%, it still goes down very easy. I get a little bit of butterscotch/cream after a while and the citrus turns to plum syrup with a touch of apricot. With even more time the wood becomes a little more assertive and there’s more tannic grip now. Gets saltier and a touch peppery with water. Not as good at the end as it was at the beginning.

Finish: Medium. This is where it is a little weak. As the fruit washes out on the palate there’s mostly some sour wood left on the finish (along with some tingling wood spice). Water gives the finish more depth and a little more fruit.

Comments: On the nose, this is very reminiscent of the same company’s Whisky from the Barrel though the age difference is clear. I like this a lot, and it may well be the world’s best blended malt or whatever, but this is not a “stop you in your tracks” whisky; certainly it didn’t stop me in mine. Given how well it started out and then the tapering off of the palate over time, my suspicion is that this is an excellent whisky if you’re drinking 25 ml or less in 30 minutes and not quite as good if you’re drinking 50 ml or more over 60 minutes+. Frankly, I don’t know that I’d buy this over the Whisky from the Barrel at about third the price of this. My apologies to those who know more than me.

Rating: 87 points.

Thanks to Sku for the sample!

2 thoughts on “Nikka Taketsuru 21, Pure Malt

  1. It seems to just have arrived on our shores at $180. Don’t you think that is a rather steep price for this whisky? The 17 year old of the same line is here as well. I want to try a Japanese whisky but not sure if the 21 or the 17 year old blends are better than the cheaper 15 year old Yoichi.

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    • Yeah, there is no way I would pay that much for this; $100 would probably be my threshold. Subjective valuations aside, however, it is a fact that we pretty much have to pay a premium these days for any Japanese whisky with the exception of the Hakushu 12 which seems the best deal at $50ish. I love the Yamazaki 18, for example, but there’s no way in hell I’m paying anything close to the current asking price. Of the ones you’ve listed I think the Yoichi 15 is the best anyway–it’s just that a friend got it for me from Narita last year for $70 and that makes it hard for me to think of replacing it for $115 or whatever it’s going for in the US.

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