Nikka Taketsuru Malts (Pure Malt, 12, 17, 21)

The Nikka Taketsuru range is named after the creator of Nikka distillery. That’s a lot to live up to. Masataka Taketsuru is well loved at Nikka, so you just don’t

The reason being, this is a blended malt, made up of Pure Malt. It’s distilled exclusively from barely malt. And Malt whisky, to the Nikka Whisky company, is considered to be the forefather of all whiskies. I’ve personally never heard that before, but fuck it, I’ll take it. Maybe it is. Am I a major distiller that has won multiple awards? No? Then I can shut the fuck up.

So all of the Taketsuru is all made up of Pure Malt. It’s a blend of different distilleries whiskies.

Or a blend, to a foolish person, like myself. I guess. Okay, maybe I should know more about these whiskies now, even though the website for it says only what I’ve parroted back.

So let’s break down the specifics for each one, shall we?

1 - dc4NtvR

So to start, we’ll have the newest whisky from the Taketsuru line, Nikka Taketsuru Pure Malt. It features quite a bit of whisky from Miyagikyo, as well as lots of whisky from sherried malt.

So this is NAS… I’m not too happy with that. It replaced the 12, from what I can understand. So they went down in age. Probably because Japan is running out of older whisky.

Which sounds like an issue where they should have planned for more. Or released less whisky. Or just an excuse.

Granted, this is higher Abv than the 12, so maybe I’m just being a pedantic asshole who should try it before I judge.

So… let’s try not to be that guy, eh?

2 - xi7UeEc

Price: N/A at the LCBO

Region: Japan

Abv: 43%

Colour: 10YR 6/8

Nose: Lemon, apple, wood, vanilla, chile, unripe banana

Light nose. I like the banana in it. It’s a little wood and there’s some raw chile there.

Can’t really pick up too much sherry cask in this. If I didn’t read it above, I’d say it wasn’t even there. Or wasn’t super strong.

Taste: Cream, wood, orange rind, cassia buds

The sherry influence comes out here more. If I had to guess, I’d say Amontillado, given the orange and spice portions. It’s nice, though weak, and there’s not a lot to it.

Finish: Caramel, malt, wood, ginger, mineral

Nice finish on it. Starts to taste like caramel now.

There’s a minerality to it that isn’t that great. Not really helping. I’ve never had caramel and then thought “Fuck I need a mineral water”.

Granted that’s me.

Conclusion: So… it’s not great. It’s… okay. Kinda. Not really, it’s not really worth it. The aspects I like are minor or not even there. It’s forgettable, and I’d probably mix it if I had to.


3 - 3PQM97I

So if Pure Malt NAS is the replacement, who is the original? The one I bought long ago. Nikka Taketsuru 12, a lucky buy when I ordered the /r/Scotch Ledaig special edition.

So I’m in a pretty good place, luck wise, buying a sample of something that’s been replaced by a cheaper version. But was it worth it? As I said before, it’s 40% rather than 43%. It’s also said to be a more balanced blend of Yoichi and Miyagikyo, and I haven’t found any mention of sherry casks.

So it’s a different animal, at the end of the day. Like an aardvark compared to an elephant. Granted both probably have people who want to fuck them, but those people ruin everything, so let’s not focus on them.

This is a whisky in the lineup, so let’s see if the replacement was better or worse.

4 - icfvkG8

Price: N/A at the LCBO

Region: Japan

Abv: 40%

Colour: 10YR 5/8

Nose: Caramel, peach, lemon pie, cement, malt, butter, unripe banana

Parts of this are close to Pure Malt NAS. It has elements (like the banana and lemon), yet there’s more to it. Caramel and cement, oddly enough.

Haven’t eaten cement in a long time. Not since I used to make it for 7 hours straight. And I don’t have many issues anymore.

However I haven’t eaten cement in a… okay, maybe there’s still some slight problems.

Taste: Salt water toffee, smoke, lime, dusty, banana

Nice initial taste of salt water toffee… or taffy. I can’t tell the difference between them. I think it’s taffy, but I don’t live in New England, so… I don’t know.

It’s simple. Not too crazy. Somewhat watery.

Finish: Butter, oyster juice, apple, ginger, cocoa

I’m not a fan of the fish parts… at all. Honestly it’s all I can talk about. Kinda ruins the whole thing, like finding oyster juice anywhere else.

Conclusion: So not amazing, but better than the NAS. It has some more developed flavours, a little bit of smoke, and a finish that’s a little too fishy to make me give it too high of a score.

The dusty aspect in the taste isn’t helping, and the cement in the nose isn’t helping much. I think this was worth it, and I’m sad to see it be replaced by a lesser malt, however if they had to replace one of the 3, this was the right selection.


5 - NLBIX2b

Nikka Taketsuru 17 is yet another award winning, vatted whisky from Nikka. Oh, is there anything else to say? Well most websites don’t seem to think so.

If I may get a little meta: This is a potential hiccup that one can run into with multiple reviews. You end up repeating yourself, over and over. Award-winning. Vatted. No idea what it’s made up of. Named after the founder.

I mean, can’t we change things up? Just for me, the schmuck writer? Otherwise I have to make vaguely racist jokes and tell you my dick is small, and by now, you know that, faithful reader.

Oh well. So it’s 5 more years older of malt. Let’s see how it tastes, shall we?

6 - AUK2V2d

Price: N/A at the LCBO

Region: Japan

Abv: 43%

Colour: 10YR 7/8

Nose: Green melon, pear, earth, BBQ sauce, floral, buttercream icing, spruce

This has opened up a lot more. It’s tangy. Little bit of earthy-ness to it. Like the butter elements.

Almost like they changed things up… Maybe? No idea, honestly.

Taste: Smoked caramel, grapefruit, apple, spruce, basil, peach

Nice amount of smoke, however the spruce elements are getting more pronounced, and like anyone who’s walked through the woods, too much spruce in your mouth isn’t a good thing.

Granted the same could be said of someone who skydives or juggling.

Anyway, I like the smoked caramel, and the tangy elements are new too, however it doesn’t all work. And it’s somewhat lighter than I’d hope from a dram this old.

Finish: Butter, cake, earth/dirt, mint, chile, smoke

So no more tangy, like someone brought in a fey fighter.

Look that one up.

Anyway, the earth is overwhelming, and it’s really quite dirty.

Conclusion: I like the nose. I can see someone who falls in love with the nose as a main portion loving this way more than me.

I think I’ve said that before. About others. Whatever, keep going.

The spruce in the taste, and the finish has way, way more earth than it should. The whole thing has some pretty evident notes that throw it off, however I like it. Not love it. And the price is probably blocking it from being bought, however it’s alright.


7 - 43PET4d

The last one is Nikka Taketsuru 21. Winner of the 2010 best blended malt whisky. So.. you got that, right?

So it’s 4 more years than the last one. Like it got voted for again in the US, before term limits were a thing.

Let’s see if the award was worth it, shall we?

8 - amrjwt0

Price: N/A at the LCBO

Region: Japan

Abv: 43%

Colour: 10YR 6/10

Nose: Grapefruit, cereal, wood, lemon, brown sugar, butter, plum

Tangy, nice amount of lemon. The spruce is turned down, and it’s left with a woody note. Much better than the 17. Stronger notes.

The plum is new. Almost like there’s more sherry influence. I guess. Maybe? Not really, just seems like it.

Taste: Peach, malt, cream, plum, raspberry, butterscotch

Very fruity. Nothing overly complex, and nothing crazy, but consistently tasty. Good amount of creaminess. This is the first one that didn’t have a weak ass flavour.

About time Nikka.

Finish: Malt, vanilla, cereal, milk, apple, pomegranate

Nice finish. Again, nothing mind blowing, however it’s nice and balanced. Other reviews noted spice, but I didn’t. Guess I’m full of shit.

Or I’m too used to full Abv. offerings and spice bombs.

Creamy finish on this one. Nice amount of acid at the end.

Conclusion: Not crazy amazing. Not crazy bad. Has more flavour than the others, and has removed the rough elements in younger versions.

However having to wait for a 21 year old whisky to do it is pretty rough, in my humble and truly amazing opinion. This was nice, and I’d drink it whenever. Probably wouldn’t buy a bottle, mostly due to price, however if the price was 1/3, I’d consider it.


World Whisky reviews #113-116, Japan reviews #24-27, Whisky Network reviews #564-567

3 thoughts on “Nikka Taketsuru Malts (Pure Malt, 12, 17, 21)

  1. “So this is NAS… I’m not too happy with that. It replaced the 12, from what I can understand. So they went down in age. Probably because Japan is running out of older whisky.”

    From what I’ve read, it’s basically the same age, it just gives them slightly more flexibility on a little of what they blend in.

    “Which sounds like an issue where they should have planned for more. Or released less whisky. Or just an excuse.”

    It wasn’t an issue of planning or releasing less whisky, Japanese Whisky as an entire market segment couldn’t have anticipated how the last few years would have gone, with Suntory winning whisky of the year by Jim Murray, the show in Japan called Massan that was a huge hit and followed the life of Nikka’s founder and his wife, and then Nikka winning some big awards like World’s Best Blended Malt from the World Whisky Awards for the Taketsuru 17 that you reviewed. They couldn’t have anticipated this demand, and it was only worsened when age statements like 17 and 21 years were so common.

    Lastly, don’t forget bourbon companies like Maker’s Mark went through the same type of growing pains in recent history.


    1. Good to know all around, thanks for the comment.

      I still am sad they went to a NAS as the flavour was different from the 12. I get that some companies go through growing pains, it happens, and I’m not angry, more so I’m sad to see the 12 go. I’m happy they were able to save the 17 and the 21. Makes sense given those awards, and they are the better malts.


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