Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Have just tried - Taketsuru Pure Malt 12 years old

This is a whisky that is produced by the Nikka Whisky Distilling Company in Japan and is the entry level product in their Taketsuru Pure Malt range.  Nikka own two single malt distilleries - Miyakigyo (pronounced mee-yag-ik-yo) and Yoichi (pronounced yo-ee-chee)- and both are included in this whisky.  The term Pure Malt is used as there is no grain whisky in the product, just single malts.  This 12 years old expression is joined by two others in the Taketsuru Pure Malt range, which have age statements of 17 and 21 years of age.

The whisky range is named after Masataka Taketsuru, the man who founded Nikka in 1933.  Taketsuru is a legendary figure in the Japanese whisky industry as ten years previously he had aided Shinjiro Tori in the setting up of Yamazaki, which was Japan's first single malt distillery.  After splitting with Tori and founding Nikka, he built Yoichi on the northern island of Hokkaido.  He later went on to build Miyagikyo to the west of the city of Sendai in 1969.  He died in 1979 and is buried at Yoichi alongside his wife.  The company now also own the Ben Nevis distillery near the town of Fort William in Scotland, which they took over in 1989.

This expression of the Taketsuru Pure Malt contains malt whiskies of 12 years old and older.  Once selected, these are placed in a large vat, where the casks marry together to create the final product.  It is bottled at 40% ABV and is available through selected specialist whisky retailers.  A bottle should cost in the region of £45-50.

Our tasting notes
The colour is a vibrant golden yellow and the nose is wonderfully fragrant.  There are a number of expressive aromas fighting for attention - sweet honey, vanilla and brown sugar, fresh grass and green apples, plus some earthy and woody spices (think of ginger powder and mace especially).  There is also an increasingly floral aroma, which is reminiscent of jasmine or honeysuckle, and hints of custard powder and orange marmalade.

On the palate, this whisky feels creamy and soft with an initial sugary sweetness mixing well with some gentle spices.  The sweetness is driven by notes of honey, soft brown sugar and toffee, with the spiciness reminiscent of cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger powder (possible even gingerbread).  A bittersweet cereal note backs these up and becomes more malty with time.  There are other elements including vanilla extract, dried grass, tangy orange zest and fresh peaches which are also detected and bring a lovely depth and complexity.  The woody spiciness seems to increase with time in the mouth and adds warmth and a pleasant dryness and earthiness to the palate.

The finish is on the short side and begins with plenty of the honey-like sweetness in evidence, along with some lovely malty barley sugars.  Then the woody and earthy spices come flooding in, especially the ginger and the mace from the nose.  The combination is warming and grips the taste buds, before becoming quite dry towards the end.

What's the verdict?
The Taketsuru Pure Malt 12 years old  is a lovely whisky and one which shows Japanese whisky at its simplistic best - a combination of sweetness and gentle spiciness.  It also offers decent value for money, as Japanese whiskies tend to be slightly more expensive than their comparative Scottish or Irish counterparts, and would be a good choice as a whisky to introduce someone to the genre.  The only slight disappointment is the short-ish finish.  This is well worth checking out.

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