Ever had choose between two Japanese whiskies and couldn’t decide? Well today is your lucky day if your alternatives were the Yamazaki 12 or the Nikka Taketsuru 12! I’ll be putting these two whiskies to a head to head taste test so that you never have to face such a dilemma again!
The Yamazaki is bottled at 43% abv and is a single malt whereas the Taketsuru is a blend bottled at 40% abv. Both are aged at least 12 years prior to bottling at their respective locations. The Yamazaki is usually about $10 to $20 less expensive around these parts.
In appearance, the Yamazaki is lighter gold than the Taketsuru which tends more towards amber.
The nose on the Yamazaki is sweeter, with honey and melon contrasting against the Taketsuru’s deeper notes of lemon and aging apple. When considering these two back to back, I notice more oak and some smoke on the nose of the Taketsuru, something that I did not notice during my initial review.
The palate of the Yamazaki is juicy, with an explosion of pineapple quickly overwhelming the sense and adding honey and vanilla to the experience. Compared to the Taketsuru’s oak permeated mix of apple and cinnamon, the former is a party in my mouth. However, the Taketsuru gives off a more mature impression, in no small part due to the unmistakable presence of oak and a hint of smoke. Once again, I note that I didn’t tune in to just how much oak was present in the Taketsuru during my initial tasting and I missed the boat on the smoke altogether.
The Yamazaki 12 finishes nicely, with fruits continuing into the finish. Pineapple is still strong and the finish lasts a decent length, though I wouldn’t call it long. The Nikka Taketsuru 12 is sweet on the finish but not quite as much as the Yamazaki. The Taketsuru seals the deal with more oak and smoke. Both are quite satisfying.
Overall, these are two distinct whiskies and I am surprised at how much they contrast. In fact, I believe the Taketsuru would be a more interesting candidate against a Macallan 12 due to the oak and smoke. Perhaps Takesturu was attempting to emulate the classic elements of a Macallan whereas Yamazaki was aiming at creating something a bit more uniquely Japanese. I will give my vote to the Yamazaki for creating something a bit different. Of course, if your preference is for something more oaky, smokey, and subdued, then you will no doubt disagree. The pineapple in the Yamazaki is enjoyable, refreshing, and distinct from most whiskies I have tried to date. I will keep my eyes open for more expressions from these two distilleries as they consistently win international whisky awards, outranking even some of the best Scotch whiskies.