Tag Archives: nikka

Nikka Taketsuru 17 Review

Distiller: Nikka. ABV: 43%. Age: 17 years. Blended malt. Price: $180+.

The Nikka Taketsuru 17 is so silky, I want to call it a dessert dram–but what that often means is cloyingly sweet and unbalanced. This is anything but.

The Taketsuru line is Nikka’s homage to its founder Masataka Taketsuru, who traveled to Scotland in 1918 to learn the art of whisky distilling at the feet of the masters. He returned to Japan with a degree in organic chemistry from the University of Glasgow, world of knowledge from internships at Longmorn and Hazelburn, and a Scottish bride.

The Nikka Taketuru 12 was a brilliant staple Japanese malt–until it was discontinued in 2015. Fortunately the no-age-statement Taketsuru Pure Malt that replaced it is every bit a worthy (and well distributed) successor.

Which brings us to the Taketsuru 17. The older Japanese malts are harder to find than ever these days, and often prohibitively expensive when you can find them. But let’s say you get lucky and find a bar with a dram at a reasonable price (I’m looking at you, Morrison Pub LA). Is it worth the splurge?

Oh yeah.

The 17 is sweet, yes, in a custardy creme brulée way, but balanced with faint smoke, substantial malt, and roasted nuts. It unfolds slowly and beautifully, with new layers of dried fruits, baking spice, and frangrant oak emerging bit by bit.

The younger Taketsurus have a certain wildness–not a bad thing at all–but that’s been fully tamed here. The 17’s all luxurious refinement. It asks for a patient approach and rewards it.

Kanpai, friends! – BO

Nikka Yoichi NAS Single Malt Review

Distiller: Nikka/Yoichi. ABV: 45%. No age statement. Price: 1,700 yen/$16 (500 ml)

No self-respecting North American whisk(e)y fan will miss the chance to try something new from Japan these days. Granted, that’s exactly the attitude that led to a worldwide shortage of Japanese whisky–to the point where the two giants of Japanese distilling, Suntory and Nikka, are swapping out many of their beloved age-statement whiskies for no-age-statement (NAS) substitutes.

The trend isn’t exclusive to Japanese whisky, of course–the same thing’s happening all over the world of bourbon and scotch. I’m not against the NAS trend per se. NAS whiskies have to be evaluated case-by-case for taste and value. It’s important to call out overpriced and overhyped BS. But I also try to avoid the grumpy-old-man grumbling of certain folks who rightly miss the days of 21-year-old single malts and Pappy and Buffalo Trace Antique Collection gathering dust in liquor stores at sub-$100 prices–but sometimes seem to be complaining that the party’s gotten too big to be cool anymore.

On to the new Yoichi. My chance to try this and several other new Japanese NAS releases came when some relatives attended a destination wedding in Tokyo. They were kind enough to lug half a suitcase’s worth of bottles back for me.

The Yoichi Distillery is one of Nikka’s two malt distilleries. It uses imported Scottish peat, and distills on old-school coal-fired stills. Nikka formerly sold 10-year-old to 20-year-old Yoichi, but has discontinued them all in favor of this 45% ABV NAS.

So what’s in the bottle? The nose has stewed apple, pear, and buttery shortbread. There’s just a subtle whiff of white smoke at first–think Benromach 10–but it evolves in the glass, expands, and merges with a pleasant spiciness. The spice expands further on the palate: ground ginger, nutmeg, and fresh cut vanilla bean. There’s a touch of rawness in the spirit from a fresh bottle, but it quickly dissipates in the glass, and is gone for good by the second dram. Late on the palate there’s vanilla toffee and sweet oily smoke, then the finish adds lemon pith and Chardonnay barrel.

Very satisfying, and an amazing value at under $20 for a 500ml bottle–if you’re visiting Japan. This has reached the EU and Scandanavia, but we’re still waiting for it here in the U.S.

Another fine NAS from Nikka. Now when can we get some Stateside without shaking down our world-traveler friends? – BO

Nikka from the Barrel Review

Distiller: Nikka. ABV: 51.4%. No age statement. Price: $50-60 (500ml).

Took me a while to get a taste of this, but it was worth the wait.

Nikka from the Barrel comes in a 500ml bottle that’s charming but unfortunately banned in the US–where only 750ml, 375ml, 200ml, and minis can be sold here. It’s a blend of Japanese single malts and grain whisky (ages and proportions undisclosed) that are married for 6 months in oak casks, then bottled at cask strength–51.4% in this case.

The nose starts out hot but not unpleasantly so. There’s caramel, coffee, some sweet grainery notes a la Teeling Single Grain, but with some dense malt too. Palate: caramel apple, vanilla, Christmas spice, dark oak. A bit like a Japanese Aberlour A’Bunadh.

With time, a floral note seeps in–jasmine?–more dense than delicate, then black tea and bitter orange marmalade  take over. There’s a weight and density on the finish that I love. A few drops of water do good things all around.

Can we get this in a US-friendly 750ml, NIkka? Please?

Kanpai, friends! -BO

Nikka Coffey Grain Whisky Review

Distiller: Nikka. ABV: 45%. No age statement. Grain bill: undisclosed. Price: $60-70

Grain whisky gets a bad rap among single malt lovers, since it’s seen as–and often is–the cheap neutral column-distilled spirit that fills out many Canadian whiskies and blends like lower-end Johnnie Walker, leaving them (by comparison with single malts) thin, bland, and more redolent of flavored vodka than the stuff we love.

But more and more, there are great grains out there, and Nikka’s Coffey Grain Whisky is one of them.

“Coffey” refers to the continuous still it’s made in, named after Aeneas Coffey, the man who patented it. The juice itself is full of flavor: a nose and palate of spicy vanilla bean, coconut, buttered sweet potato, and candied citrus. Full mouthfeel and a quick finish–with a touch of roasted coffee bean that seems like an accidental tip of the hat to the whisky’s namesake.

Whisky Advocate called it “the gold standard of grain,” and K&L Wines called it “perhaps the best grain whisky” on the U.S. market. I call it a great change of pace from a brilliant Japanese whisky distiller–one I’m glad is more readily available on the U.S. market all the time.

Kanpai, friends! -BO

Buy Nikka Japanese Whisky online at Mash + Grape