May 01

Whiskey Review: Nikka Taketsuru 12 yr Pure Malt Whiskey

Whiskey Review: The Nikka Taketsuru 12 yr  Pure Malt whiskey 

The Taketsuru 12 is the (previous) entry-level whiskey in the range of whiskies produced by Nikka, but is now being replaced by a No Age Statement Taketsuru Pure Malt. The Taketsuru whiskies are named in honor of the man considered by most as the founder” of Japanese whiskey, Masataka Taketsuru. Taketsuru, who traveled to Scotland in 1918 to learn whisky-making, returned to Japan after completing his studies and an apprenticeship, and ultimately founding the Yoichi and Miyagikyo distilleries. While Japan had already had a lengthy history of distilling spirits, whiskey was new to the country. As it turns out, the Japanese took to whiskey quickly, both as consumers and as producers and there are now numerous distilleries in Japan producing some exceptional whiskies and still using the very traditional methods as brought back from Scotland by Taketsuru. Nowadays, demand for these Japanese whiskies has reached a fever pitch, especially at home in Japan, that the distilleries cannot keep pace, leading to supply challenges and allocations in other markets (like the US)!


Review: Nikka Taketsuru 12 yr, Pure Malt Whiskey, Bottled 2013, 40% abv

The Nikka Taketsuru 12 yr Pure Malt is a vatting of malt whiskies produced at Nikka’s Yoichi and Miyagikyo distilleries. The Yoichi distillery is known for producing softly peated whiskies. the Miyagikyo distillery produces softer, fruitier, floral whiskies. 


Color: Light golden amber

Nose: (N) a big, dense start full of ripe orchard fruits, red apple, cherry and peach, a hint of incense bringing a softly smoky, grassy element. White pepper, cinnamon and warm honey poured over cooked raisins. Some old leather and orange juice. A hint of oak and a very faint wood smoke. (W) Remains very consistent, still full of spiced honey, loads of fruits, leather, orange juice.

Taste: (N) A fairly delicate arrival, light and supple on the tongue, yet full of flavor at the same time. Delicate malty notes, loads of honey, hints of cocoa, and a touch of spiced-vanilla. The fruits, so prominent on the nose, are softer here, apples and peaches, orange juice. A faint smoke floats around the edges. Rose water, cinnamon, fresh tobacco. (W) Water only seems to soften an already delicate whisky and really doesn’t seem to be needed or to have much of an effect. Smoked honey, orchard fruits, cloves, leather, white pepper spice, white raisins, butter, soft citrus, and that delicate smokiness.

Finish: Honeyed orchard fruits, soft spices, leather, the delicate smoke. Nice length to the finish.

Overall: Quite a beautiful whisky, surprisingly complex, balanced and well-integrated, intriguing and eminently enjoyable, especially when tasted neat, the Taketsuru 12 comes across as much older; it is richly flavored with a surprisingly dense body that comes from good malts.  The nose is the star for me, by a small amount. If you’ve not tried Japanese whiskies, this is one that is guaranteed to leave a good impression, so should you stumble across a bottle, don’t hesitate!

Rating 85




Region: Japan

Distillery: Nikka (Yoichi and Miyagikyo plants)

Type: Blended Malt 

Age: 12 years

ABV: 40%

Maturation: a variety of casks are used, including ex-bourbon and ex-sherry

Price: $55 (2013)

Availability: Limited as the 12 year old, but becoming available again as the NAS release 

Sample Source: My own bottle


Apr 30

Whisky Review: Auchroisk 20 yr – Diageo Special Release 2010

Reviewing one of the 2010 Diageo Special Releases, the Auchroisk 20 year old  Limited Edition!

Things are starting to get a little more hectic around here as we prepare for our move, so I’ve been slow to get the last few US-based reviews posted – but I have some really special whiskies coming up, Like this one! I found this bottle of Auchroisk 20 year-old a few years back at Goody Goody while doing whisky some hunting with Sorin and I have to say that this is one of my all-time best surprise buys! The incredible thing is that this was just sitting there in plain sight on the shelf – and for a rather incredible $130 a bottle, that was actually ultimately less after Sorin negotiated a discount!  Now if you keep an eye on these things, you’ll know that the current state of pricing for Diageo’s annual release bottlings can tend toward the stratospheric, so finding one of this age, and for this price, was a real piece of luck. Then, after opening the bottle and tasting the whisky inside, I rushed back as fast as I could to pick up a couple more! 

Auchroisk is relatively unknown as single malt distillery, at least here in the US, and most of what you can find here are independent bottlings. I’ve read various reviews of different releases from Auchroisk and they have been…..well, mixed, at best. And given the limited availability, this was the actually first Auchroisk that I’d tasted. But because of the rarity of finding an official bottling, and an aged Diageo Special release at that, I took the flyer on the bottle and haven’t had any regrets!


Review: Auchroisk 20 year old  Limited Edition, 2010 Diageo Special Release, Bottle No. 5353 of 5856 Total Bottles, Natural Cask Strength 58.1% abv, 

Color: Light amber gold

Nose: (N) Very floral, grassy, and with huge notes of raisin custard. Whiffs of soft baking spices, warm bread with honey, newly tanned leather, fresh ink, red plum, overripe pear, and black cherry, along with a gorgeous oakiness that ties it all together. (W) Remains floral, but the grassy aspect is diminished. Butterscotch, cream, warm toast, white pepper, just opened glossy magazines, Candied cherries, white pepper, a hint of cinnamon, Earl Grey tea, and still that supple oakiness that adds interest without being overdone. 

Taste: (N) Whoa! The arrival is really too hot to really show off much! There are hints of vanilla, warm bread dough, quite a bit of fresh lemon juice, tart apple skin, and leather that peek through, but this one definitely needs a handle with caution label! (W) Now we’re talking! I added quite a bit of water to the glass, then gave it several minutes to settle…..and it is worth the wait! The fruits are much more prominent early, then I get some lemon juice, loads of white raisins, warm vanilla buttercream, leather, rosewater, a quick hit of peppery heat in the mid-palate, then more of the sweeter notes, baking spices, raisins, and then the fruits return. Rinse and repeat!

Finish: Very long. Sweet, a peppery heat, the fruits ebb and flow, with a slightly tannic bite at the end. 

Overall: I really enjoyed this whisky. Granted, it is very hot when tasted neat – well, it is 58.1% abv! – but patience, and a good dose of water, raises the gates to an interesting, nicely complex, and excellent example of a Speyside whisky. At times fruity, floral, spiced, and sweet, this one just dances around the tongue! Highly rated in my book!

Rating 88




Region: Speyside

Distillery: Auchroisk

Type: Single Malt Scotch Whisky

Age: 20 years

ABV: 58/1%

Maturation: American and European Oak casks

Price: $130 (USD)

Availability: Very Limited via Retail

Sample Source: My own bottle



Apr 16

Whisky review: Johnnie Walker Platinum Label blended Scotch whisky

Whisky review: Johnnie Walker Platinum Label  18-year old, Blended Scotch Whisky

Next up in this series on the Johnnie Walker core range is the Platinum Label 18-year old blended Scotch whisky. The Platinum Label joined the lineup of Johnnie Walker whiskies in 2013, replacing the Gold Label Reserve as their 18-year old bottling. Presented in a very nicely designed, hard plastic, side-opening case – if you’re into such things with your whisky purchases – the bottle, which has beveled, tapered corners that lead to an octagonal bottom, represents a slight variation to the traditional square Johnnie Walker bottle. Thankfully, the Platinum Label manages to bring some substance along with its age statement to make for a very enjoyable blend. 


Review: Johnnie Walker Platinum Label blended Scotch whisky

Color: Amber-gold.

Nose: (N) An interesting start to this one. I immediately picked up this “just burnt” toast note that persists throughout, there are some very delicate hints of fruits: honeyed apples and cinnamon pears. Some soft spice notes of cardamom, cumin, and white pepper. Fresh-cut green peppers, a very soft smoke, spearmint, vanilla taffy, orange zest, a drop of lemon juice, and sandalwood incense. (W) Sadly, water really seems to diminish the nose, which was quite nice when neat, and emphasizes an oaky sharpness. Vanilla, more orange notes, the apples.

Taste: (N) Vanilla cream is front and center in the arrival. Fresh lemon juice, red apples, honey, mint, fresh bread, cinnamon, an interesting note of coffee bean, leather, a delicate smokiness – more barrel char than peat smoke. (W) More sweet vanilla, a touch of confectioners sugar, while it still retains its lemon juice, orange zest and red apple notes. The sugary sweetness is a tad too much for me – reminds me a bit of a few of the recent Glenmorangie Private Edition releases.

Finish: Honey and vanilla, apple peel, orange, and that very delicate hint of barrel-charred smoke, ending with a slightly bitter bite. 

Overall: The Platinum Label does have a very nice nose, although the palate just doesn’t quite deliver the same richness of flavors that the nose indicates it might have. Still, this is a good whisky. I suspect the Platinum Label has a higher malt:grain ratio, but given the price point at $100, even in this price-crazy market, I think there are a number of whiskies I’d pay that much for before buying another bottle of the Platinum Label.  

Rating 82




Region: Scotland

Type: Blended Scotch Whisky

Age: No Age Statement

ABV: 40% 

Maturation: Various 

Price: $100 (Total Wine)

Availability: Readily available

Sample Source: My own bottle

Apr 10

Whisky Review: Johnnie Walker Gold Label Reserve, Blended Scotch Whisky

Whisky Review: Johnnie Walker Gold Label Reserve, Blended Scotch Whisky

Onwards we go with the closet cleanout project! In the third in this brief series reviewing the core range of the Johnnie Walker whiskies, I’m taking a look at the Johnnie Walker Gold Label Reserve. Although, the Gold Label Reserve has been around for quite a while, this recent iteration is a relatively new format. In the past, the Gold Label Reserve was an 18-year old bottling, but due to a reported strain on available reserves, Johnnie Walker dropped the age statement, while also raising the price…..and then followed up with the release of the Platinum Label 18-year old. Hmmm…..

Anyway, I’ve tried the Gold Label Reserve several times and, SPOILER ALERT!, find this to be probably my favorite of the core offerings.


Review: Johnnie Walker Gold Label Reserve, Blended Scotch Whisky, 40% abv, Bottled 2016, L6034DN000 00953692

Color: standard amber-gold

Nose: (N) Very fruity nose full of ripe red apples, purple plums, and strawberry, a hint of pineapple, along with a touch of lime. Beeswax. A soft floral, orange blossom and rosewater aspect. With time, a growing note of warm bread. There is some vanilla, but it is very restrained. Black pepper, oiled leather, and a subtle touch of campfire smoke. (W) A couple of small drops of water brings out a very nice tropical fruit note – the pineapple and a touch of kiwi. Apples and beeswax, vanilla cream, hints of pepper and lime, along with some fresh mint. With more time, I also get some honey and a bit of cardamom

Taste: (N) The body is a bit thin, slightly watery on the arrival. The palate follows the nose with the apple-filled start. There is something metallic and slightly bitter in the middle. Green peppers, orange pith bringing a dry aspect, and leather. Slightly waxy. The peat smoke I picked up on the nose doesn’t really show up here. (W) A tad more vanilla with the water at first, and then again toward the back. The fruits remain prominent, but it also retains the bready, waxy, and floral notes.

Finish: Apples and warm bread, hint of lemon, a bit grassy and with a slightly bitter, tannic ending.

Overall:  A rather enjoyable nose with big fruits and a reasonable complexity. One downside is that the body is a bit on the thin side. Certainly, the Gold Label Reserve presents a very different experience from the Black Label (reviewed here) with the lack of peat smoke, so it might be considered more alike to the Red Label. However the Gold Label Reserve, by far, has a broader spectrum of flavors, better balance, and a much more “polished” profile than the Red Label.

Rating 81




Region: Scotland

Bottler: Diageo

Type: Blended Scotch Whisky

Age: No Age Statement

ABV: 40%

Maturation: Not disclosed – Various 

Price: $65-$70

Availability: Readily available 

Sample Source: My own bottle


Apr 02

Whisky Review: Johnnie Walker Black Label

Whisky Review: Johnnie Walker Black Label, 12 year old, Blended Scotch Whisky

Up next on this brief series, we have another of those ubiquitous Johnnie Walker whiskies found almost everywhere, the Johnnie Walker Black Label, a 12-year old blended scotch that, for many, represents an initial foray into the world of “peated” whiskies. Whereas the Red Label is a No Age Stated whisky, the Black Label, with what I suspect is a higher malt content, and with its 12 years of maturation, begins to demonstrate some of the refinement, richness, and breadth of flavors that scotch whisky fans seek! 



Review: Johnnie Walker Black Label, 12 year old, Blended Scotch Whisky, 40% abv, Bottled 2015, L5321CA000 29274188

Color: amber-gold with an orange cast.

Nose: (N) earthy scents; dust, damp wood, vegetation, a briny note and a faint smoke. Melted butter. Some fruit, more citric than apple or pear, and grassy notes creep in, but remain subtly in the background. Tobacco and leather. There are a wide range of aromas, but they are all very muted, nothing to give it an individual identity. Barrel char smokiness. (W) More of a citric start with lemon zest, cinnamon, fruity sweetness – pears, plums, and red apples. There are some spices; ginger and cinnamon, and a slight mustiness. Oaky notes and a hint of some nuts. Now some sea-spray, crisp and light peat, and juniper notes that likely represents the Caol Ila influence. A surprising hint of chocolate late, all with a perpetual soft smoke floating around the edges. 

Taste: (N) soft, but slightly spicy initial delivery, a bit of smoke, then showing a fruitier side, with apples, pears, and plums, accompanied by a dash of fresh lemon. Some butterscotch and vanilla sweetness in the middle, then it becomes increasingly malty, More of the soft smoke and tannic dryness in the later stages. (W) With water – just a few drops – on the nose the fruits are more immediately evident; ripe pears, plums, and apples. More of the Caol Ila juniper/peat notes. A very light smoke, the mustiness, oak spices, brininess, and that hint of chocolate. On the palate, the water evens out the flavors, but the mouthfeel becomes a bit thin. 

Finish: The finish is reasonably long, softly tangy, nicely sweet, before becoming drying with a slightly bitter, ashy ending.

Overall: Vastly superior to the Red Label in all measures: nose, body, palate, and finish. There is a nice delicate peat influence that may underwhelm confirmed peat heads, but serves well to introduce this historical characteristic of Scotch whisky. Also, I suspect that the Black Label has a much higher malt:grain ratio than the Red Label. With its additional aging, the Black Label shows levels of balance and integration that the Red Label sadly lacks. 

Rating 81




Region: Scotland

Type: Blended Scotch Whisky

Age: 12 years

ABV: 40% 

Maturation: Various 

Price: $29.99 – Total Wines (750 ml)

Availability: Always

Sample Source: My own bottle

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