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


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